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This item is taken from PN Review 238, Volume 44 Number 2, November - December 2017.

News & Notes
Khaled Mattawa · At the end of August the Libyan poet Khaled Mattawa notified us about writers under threat in Libya. The Libyan journalist Laila Naim Moghrabi and Khaled co-edited an anthology of young Libyan writers, published earlier this year by Darf, London. The book features work by twenty-five young writers and two essays by Libyan critics. One item in the anthology is extracted from Kashan, a published novel by Ahmad Al-Bokhari. A social media campaign singled out the extract and condemned it as immoral, irreligious, and much else. As a result of the campaign, everyone included in the book, including the editors and publisher (a Libyan based in London), are receiving physical threats on social media and legal action may be under way. Government officials and unofficial organisations that hosted book launches are being drawn into the controversy. Khaled’s immediate concern is for Ms Moghrabi, a journalist widely targeted. She and her family have left their house and must leave the country. Khaled is trying to make arrangements for her, but he also needs to make efforts ‘to guarantee the safety of the other participants and supporters of the books who may also be under threat’. The aim is to inform readers and writers of the situation and ask them to bring what pressure they can to bear on the Libyan authorities (not the most stable constituency) to guarantee the safety of those involved in the publication.

Tracy K. Smith has been appointed the twenty-second poet laureate of the United States. At forty-five, she is a young incumbent, coming in the wake of such greybeards as Frost and Wilbur. She has written three books of poetry and won a Pulitzer Prize in 2012. She and her husband teach at Princeton. Like her recent predecessors, she says she wants to widen the audience for poetry, to take it ‘beyond the ivy walls of universities and urban literary festivals to places where it is seldom heard or read’. She has been invited to read in divided communities, in hospitals, hospices. ‘Nursing homes are often overlooked,’ she said in a telephone interview. ‘Poetry can be very useful at the end of life.’

Duncan Bush · Robert Minhinnick writes: Duncan Bush, who died in Marlborough, Wilshire, on 18 August 2017, was born in Cardiff in 1946. First known as a poet, Duncan was one of Three Young Anglo-Welsh Poets (with Nigel Jenkins and Tony Curtis), an anthology published in 1974, by what was the Welsh Arts Council. Subsequently, all his poetry was issued by Seren. including his last collection, The Flying Trapeze (2012). Duncan also published the novel Glass Shot (Secker and Warburg, 1991). This tale of male sexual obsession went into Mandarin and became an airport paperback. It was described by Hilary Mantel as ;tense, deft, considered, important and extremely frightening’.

Yet prior to this, his The Genre of Silence (Seren, 1987) is described as a ‘novel’. It is one hundred pages of prose and poetry, outlining the life of fictional poet, Victor Bal, who disappeared under Stalinism. It features the very real writer, Isaac Babel, whose Selected Writings was published by Norton. Another novel, Now All the Rage was self-published in 2008 and concerns academic life and delusional fame. Bush translated poetry from the French and Italian, including versions of Baudelaire, Mallarme and Pavese. A long-awaited volume devoted to the latter has not yet materialised. His poetry includes Are there Still Wolves in Pennsylvania, dramatised for three voices on BBC Radio 3 in 1990. Set in an American trailer-park, this too explores the violent cul-de-sac of male sexuality.

Bush’s essay ‘Lash La Rue and the River of Doom’, from his collection Midway, is an account of a Cardiff boyhood, and his feelings about being Welsh. ‘Old south Wales’ features in his recent poem, ‘Primal Landscapes’, published in the Times Literary Supplement in March this year, revealing his bitterness.

Duncan Bush was a superb lyric poet, as evidenced by his last collection, The Flying Trapeze (2012). His most powerful work was astonishing. Take this, from The Genre of Silence: ‘But few of us, educated or not, can talk with the slow and ungainsayable authority of Voloshin, with those Tartar eyes and his skull still blue from headlice and his beard of iron filings.’ As editor of Poetry Wales, I published much of his new poetry. I interviewed him twice, valuing his ability to speak honestly about modern politics and culture. He did not suffer fools gladly or parrot what he might consider a party line. His collection Masks was ‘Wales Book of the Year’ in 1995. All his poetry remains available from Seren, plus – reprinted – The Genre of Silence.

Thom Nairn · The poet and translator Thom Nairn died in August in Edinburgh. He was sixty-two years old. Among Scotland’s leading contemporary writers, he started – the Scotsman reported – as a heraldic artist. When he became a writer he was able to provide his own book covers. He gave writing workshops and with his Greek partner Denise Zervanou he contributed to our culture of translation. He was an active co-editor, at Cencrastus, The Scottish Literary Journal, Understanding, and was founder-editor of Northwords. His own poems and reviews were widely published in magazines and anthologies. He was writer in residence at Dingwall in Ross and Cromarty and in 1993 produced The Sand Garden, a collection of poems. Plans are in hand to create a memorial to his work by establishing a Thom Nairn award for poetry.

Arthur Boyars · The publisher and translator Arthur Boyars, who also wrote poems, has died. He was born in 1925, of Russian-Jewish extraction. His father was a cantor, his mother was a pianist. He attended University College School and Wadham College, Oxford. He was a linguist, reading and speaking French, German, Italian and Spanish. He had a prodigious memory, a voracious appetite for music, and a vast range of acquaintances. He was in his time many things, working as a music journalist, in advertising, as a poet (the last survivor of Alvarez’s The New Poetry). As an undergraduate he turned his contemporaries’ attention to the modern Italian writers, Quasimodo and Montale, and collaborated with John Wain on Mandrake. He published his first collection of poems in 1944, at the age of nineteen. Some said he ‘peaked early’. He became in later years an occasional contributor to these pages. His best-selling poetry project was his co-translations (with Simon Franklin) of Yevtushenko (1979). He started writing poetry of his own once more in 2003.

ignition press · Oxford Brookes Poetry Centre has launched a new poetry pamphlet imprint, ignitionpress, dedicated to ‘original, arresting poetry from emerging poets and established poets working on interim or special projects’. The managing editor of the list will be Les Robinson, founder and director of the poetry publisher tall-lighthouse, responsible for the early publications of Helen Mort, Emily Berry, Sarah Howe, Adam O’Riordan and Liz Berry, among others. Robinson will be supported by an editorial board consisting of writers, teachers and people with business savvy. The promising first list includes pamphlets by Mary Jean Chan, Patrick Errington, and Lily Blacksell. For further information, visit

Mica Press · Leslie Bell introduced PNR readers to Mica Press in 2015. The operation continues, with – this autumn – Certain Roses by Angela Livingstone (a collection of her own poems, after her substantial contribution to translation culture). Her book is joined by the very different Julian Flanagan and Margaret Eddershaw collections. Details are available at, including information about the publications of Robert Wells and Michael Vince that featured on the list.

Leeds · Just as PNR 238 was going to press we received a press release from the University of Leeds, ‘for immediate release’. ‘World-renowned poet Simon Armitage has been announced as the University of Leeds’ first Professor of Poetry.’ Armitage returns to Leeds a mere two decades after having left (he taught creative writing, in the aftermath of his years as a probation officer, useful training for the post). He arrives with the dust of the Oxford Professorship still on his shoes (in fact his Oxford post continues to 2019), and – the press release declares – ‘with more than 25 anthologies and numerous awards and prizes to his name’. The Brotherton Library at Leeds, with its impressive modern archive holdings, has already acquired his papers. He is expected – as a part-timer – to contribute ‘to a range of courses, teaching undergraduates and post-graduates, as well as working with a wide range of academics across the University – and developing links across the city and beyond.’ His very first formal engagement, on 7 October, during the university’s open day, was to ‘give a series of short readings to potential School of English students. A new BA in English Literature with Creative Writing is set to enrol its first students in autumn 2018.’ What better bait could there be? One hopes the poet has read the small print in his contract: it sounds as though much will be expected of him. Meanwhile the press release has him say: ‘I am honoured to have been appointed Professor of Poetry at the University of Leeds. […] The School of English at Leeds has a long and proud poetic tradition; it also greatly values contemporary literature, and in what are exciting times for poetry, I am looking forward to working with an institution which does so much to support and encourage new writing from both within and outside the University.’ It certainly has an impressive record of fellowships and residencies, and the legendary Stand magazine emanates from there.

This item is taken from PN Review 238, Volume 44 Number 2, November - December 2017.

Readers are asked to send a note of any misprints or mistakes that they spot in this item to
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