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

Five Portraits of Peter Neil Powell

The covering note, dated 2 May 1970, was written in a tiny Cantabrigian script and formal to the point of irony. ‘Dear Sir,’ it began, ‘I enclose a handful of poems for your consideration and the means to return them if you do not care for them.’ Then there was a verblessly modest second paragraph: ‘Introductory: poems in several magazines, Listener, TLS, Priapus, Outposts, PEN New Poems etc. A collection shortly appearing in Phoenix Pamphlet Poets. Yours sincerely, Peter Scupham.’ He listed the titles of that ‘handful’: ‘For Roger’, ‘Model’, ‘Topology of Ruins’, ‘Dissolution’, ‘Collector’, ‘Convulsion’. None is in the imminent pamphlet, The Small Containers, nor in his first collection, The Snowing Globe; one would resurface in Prehistories, two more in The Hinterland; of the other three, I’ve no trace or memory unless (as is possible) he changed their titles. I may have turned them down, but I’m more likely to have explained that the magazine, Tracks, was an occasional and fragile thing without an issue presently in preparation.

Undeterred, Peter wrote again in October, enclosing three more poems, and this time I have the carbon copy of my reply: ‘Many thanks for sending me three poems: I like these very much. As you know, wherever possible I prefer to publish a group of poems, rather than a single poem, by each author; so I’d like to use all three in the next number of Tracks, which will appear probably in February 1971.’ Ah yes, ‘probably’; or, as Touchstone has it, much virtue in ‘if’. Tracks, which I’d ...

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