PN Review Print and Online Poetry Magazine
News and Notes
Digital Access to PN Review
Access the latest issues, plus back issues of PN Review with Exact Editions For PN Review subscribers: to access the PN Review digital archive via the Exact Editions app Exactly or the Exact Editions website, you will first need to know your PN Review ID number. read more
PN Review Prize winners announced
Carcanet Press and PN Review are delighted to announce the winners of the first ever PN Review Prize. read more
Most Read... Vahni CapildeoOn Judging Prizes, & Reading More than Six Really Good Books
(PN Review 237)
Drew MilneTom Raworth’s Writing
‘present past improved’: Tom Raworth’s Writing

(PN Review 236)
Alejandro Fernandez-OsorioPomace (trans. James Womack)
(PN Review 236)
Kei MillerIn the Shadow of Derek Walcott
1930–2017

(PN Review 235)
Eavan BolandA Lyric Voice at Bay
(PN Review 121)
Kate BinghamPuddle
(PN Review 236)
Poems Articles Interviews Reports Reviews Contributors
Gratis Ad 1
Gratis Ad 2
Next Issue CELEBRATING JOHN ASHBERY Contributors include Mark Ford, Marina Warner, Jeremy Over, Theophilus Kwek, Sam Riviere, Luke Kennard, Philip Terry,Agnes Lehoczky, Emily Critchley, Oli Hazard and others Miles Champion The Gold Standard Rebecca Watts The Cult of the Noble Amateur Marina Tsvetaeva ‘My desire has the features of a woman’: Two Letters translated by Christopher Whyte Iain Bamforth Black and White

This article is taken from PN Review 47, Volume 12 Number 3, January - February 1986.

The Poet's Grandmother and other dilemmas John Ash

Some notes on Christopher Middleton's The Pursuit of the Kingfisher (Carcanet) £14.95


The writing that enacts imagination, specifically lyrical imagination, communicates infinitely more than a message conceived as a pack of words handed over for congruent redistribution.
from 'Introductory Afterthoughts'


I would like to begin these notes, somewhat paradoxically, with a personal anecdote. (Just why such a beginning should be paradoxical will soon become clear.) Some months ago I read a review of my book The Branching Stairs. The reviewer spent most of his time discussing a long poem called The Bed. A grandmother is an important figure in this poem. She is given to secret apple-eating, surrealist story-telling and mysterious, inconsolable attacks of grief. She bears about as much relationship to any real grandmother I have ever known as Mother Goose. The reviewer seemed to like the poem but had no qualms about describing this strange figure as 'the poet's grandmother'. I nearly leapt out of my seat. How loudly do you have to shout with Rimbaud 'Je est un autre'? It is especially frustrating if - as I had done in The Bed - you have taken the extreme precaution of excluding the first person singular entirely. But no, a poem, it would seem, cannot be accepted as a work of imagination, as an artefact which has at least an autonomous relationship to the facts of the poet's life. My reviewer was not stupid or malicious, he simply ...


Searching, please wait... animated waiting image