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This article is taken from PN Review 240, Volume 44 Number 4, March - April 2018.

Eighty-five at Eighty-seven-plus Anthony Thwaite
I have had a fellow-feeling with Peter Scupham from the beginning – and by that I mean my accepting for publication ‘The Children and the House’ in 1964, when I was literary editor of the Listener. Peter has more than once acknowledged this as the start of his ‘career’ as a poet. I went on publishing him, in the Listener, then the New Statesman, then Encounter. And then there was the moment in 1977 when our new books (my A Portion for Foxes and Peter’s The Hinterland) were reviewed together in the Observer by Craig Raine, superciliously and patronisingly. It’s something to be glued together as objects of Craig Raine’s scornful facetiousness.

Much more recently, in 2016, Peter and I found ourselves more fully represented than any other poets in Kevin Gardner’s anthology Building Jerusalem: Elegies on Parish Churches. Since according to Peter I had some years ago balefully warned him to ‘keep out of graveyards for a while’, this representation might seem just. I find Peter’s frequent elegiac note congenial, and also his delight in ‘things’ – by which I mean not just portable objects but buildings, and in particular the marvellous house in which he and Margaret live, Old Hall, South Burlingham, a sixteenth- and seventeenth-century building in Norfolk (about half an hour’s drive from us) which they saved from becoming a ruin (though he likes ruins too). Its large garden has been the setting for the Shakespeare plays the Scuphams have put on for several years, as well as the annual ‘poetry picnics’: these aren’t the endurance tests (or ...

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