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This article is taken from PN Review 231, Volume 43 Number 1, September - October 2016.

‘One from the Groves of Academe, the Other from Bohemia’s Seacoast’ James Keery
IN A LATE poem, ‘For Donald Davie’ (Poems and Versions, 1992), David Wright recalls his first encounter with a respected adversary, ‘One from the groves of Academe / The other from Bohemia’s seacoast’. A friendly riposte, with a glance at The Winter’s Tale, to Davie’s outspoken contempt for ‘all the values of Bohemia’; at the same time, Wright gives to ‘airy nothing’, a pastoral figment of Shakespeare’s imagination (or wit), ‘a local habitation and a name’. There was no ‘seacoast of Bohemia’, a landlocked kingdom within the Holy Roman Empire, though Ben Jonson’s delight in the blunder may be unjust to an ingeniously outlandish play. There was, however, a seacoast of Soho. The ‘London Bohemia’, to which, according to Davie, the Movement was ‘an angry reaction’, had annexed a coastal province during the war. ‘West Penwith’, the title of Wright’s elegy for the painter Kit Barker, was, until 1974, the Rural District of Cornwall comprising Pendeen, St Just, Marazion, Zennor and numerous other ports of call for readers of Wright’s poetry, in the Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty now designated by the same name:


Noon Veor under a hill
And skyline of a moor:
Wind and the rain without,
Within a hearth as warm
As the heart of the host[.]


Noon Veor was recalled by Ilse Barker (the novelist Kathrine Talbot) as ‘a decrepit cottage above Zennor’, a mile or so from Wright’s own ‘remote cottage on the cliffs of Gurnard’s Head’. It was the centre of a community of ‘close friends and distant neighbours’, in Alison ...
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