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John Lucas

Anthologies of contemporary poetry may not tell you everything you

need to know about the state of the art, but they are bound to tell you

something. That is their purpose. I bought my first such anthology in

1956. It was called New Lines and its editor, Robert Conquest, argued

in his brief introduction that the work of the nine poets he had chosen

for inclusion could be seen to restore ‘a sound and fruitful attitude to

poetry, of the principle that poetry is written by and for the whole

man, intellect, emotions, senses and all.’And all what, we might wonder?

We might also cavil at the phrase ‘the whole man’, especially as

one of the contributors to the anthology was Elizabeth Jennings. Still,

I do not want to score easy points against New Lines. I remain

immensely grateful to Conquest for introducing me to work by poets

I was ready to admire; and I was also excited by Conquest’s determination

to press the case for a particular kind of poetry, which entailed

arguing that some poets were better than others. Conquest championed

his poets on the grounds that their work exhibited a ‘refusal to abandon

a rational structure and comprehensible language, even when the

verse is most highly charged with sensuous or emotional intent.’

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John Lucas

At the beginning of the 1960s, what might be called the Significance of Being a Gentleman was on three occasions drawn to my attention, all of them connected with the Department of English at Reading University. The first such occasion occurred on a warm afternoon in May 1961. There was to be a seminar on the novels of Walter Scott, led by an Oxford don who had agreed to read us a paper based on a forthcoming book of his. The don arrived, permitted himself an incurious stare at the twelve or so of us who were present, produced the typescript of his book, read from it for what seemed an eternity and then, as the shadows outside lengthened and his audience blinked awake, reluctantly agreed to answer questions. I made some mild objection to his ranking Kenilworth alongside The Charterhouse of Parma. Scott's novel was good, but it surely wasn't on a level with Stendhal's masterpiece? He raised a languid hand. 'The test of a gentleman', he said, 'is his ability to enjoy Scott.'

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John Lucas

Tremors: New and Selected Poems, Andrew Sant

JOHN LUCAS

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John Lucas

Other Summers by Stephen Edgar (Melbourne: Black Pepper Press, 2006). 108pp. ISBN: 978-1-876044-54-1, $16.00.

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John Lucas

Defying the Odds: Selective Poems by David Tipton (Sow’s Ear Press, 2006), 216 pp. ISBN-10: 0-95432-481-1, £9.99.

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John Lucas

Fuel by Andrew Sant

Wimmera by Homer Rieth

JOHN LUCAS

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John Lucas

Scrying Stone by Steven O’Brien (London: Greenwich Exchange, 2010), 68pp, ISBN 978-1-906075-56-9, £7.99 (p/b).

The Flaming by Mamie Pomeroy (London: Greenwich Exchange, 2010), 72pp, ISBN 978-1-906075-43-9, £7.99 (p/b).

A Change of Season by Michael Cullup (London: Greenwich Exchange, 2010), 68pp, ISBN 978-1-906075-38-5, £9. 99 (p/b).

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John Lucas

Sunlight for the south, moonlight for the north. ‘How sweet the moonlight sleeps upon this bank.’ Lorenzo’s words are supposedly spoken in Belmont, Italy, but they seem to belong to a more northern locality, where moonlight is softer, and where its light can permit and even licence deception. ‘Dim as the wandering beams of moon and stars’ Dryden opens ‘Religio Laici’, arguing that Reason is as limited and deceptive as night lights, and as likely to mislead you. In the north, ghosts walk by night. In the south they appear briefly at midday, when the sun is directly overhead and you cannot therefore know whether the figure before you casts a shadow. Ghosts, being incorporeal, have no shadows. Hence Takis Sinopoulos’s ‘Elpenor’. In the Odyssey, this former companion of Ulysses, who fell to his death from the roof of Circe’s palace, is the first shade Ulysses meets when he enters the underworld. Elpenor begs the Wily One to bury his body and to plant his oar upon the grave. But in Sinopoulos’s retelling, Ulysses and his companions come upon Elpenor at midday on an island and watch him dig his own grave until ‘hunched among dark cypresses, / [he] dwindled and slowly thinned / into the wingless, echoless blue.’ This Elpenor, perhaps like the spirit of ancient Greece, dissolves in the pitiless early afternoon sunlight.

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John Greening and John Lucas

Wild Track by Mark Haworth-Booth

What is the Purpose of Your Visit? by Wanda Barford

Under the Hammer by Robert Roberts

Fighting Talk by Cathy Grindrod

JOHN GREENING

The Rain and The Glass by Robert Nye

High Wire by Adrian Caesar

Catullus by Mario Petrucci

JOHN LUCAS

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Mary Joannou and John Lucas

This edition of Critical Survey is dedicated to papers first given at

the ‘Literature of the 1930s: Visions and Revisions’ conference and

includes radical new perspectives on woman novelists.