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This report is taken from PN Review 154, Volume 30 Number 2, November - December 2003.

C.H. Sisson (1914-2003) Michael Schmidt

Charles Hubert Sisson's most celebrated poem, 'The Usk', was included in Poetry Nation I. When Poetry Nation made its transition to PN Review almost three decades ago, Donald Davie and Sisson joined Brian Cox and me on the editorial board. They remained editors for over a decade, contributing regularly, always wishing the magazine would become better, and other, than it was. Both, upon their retirement, had special issues dedicated to them.

Sisson's death on 5 September 2003 was an occasion of profound sadness for me and for the magazine he did so much to shape and direct.

I had heard of Charles Sisson from David Wright and Robert Nye. I first heard from him in October 1972 when he submitted to Carcanet Press a collection called In the Trojan Ditch. It opened with 'The Discarnation' and consisted of a rigorously coherent, metaphysical and rather rebarbative accumulation of poems. The book eventually published as In the Trojan Ditch (1974) was more miscellaneous than he had intended; it was Carcanet's first stab at his collected poems, and it remains the book I am most proud to have published.

On 27 November 1973 Sisson received his first issue of Poetry Nation. He declared himself intrigued, in particular with Adrian Stokes's and Edgell Rickword's contributions. Thereafter he commented on each issue judiciously: he was often harsh, always engaged. When I invited him to join the board, he (like Donald Davie) promised me a difficult ride. These were ...


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