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

Debonair Forms
and Feral Terrors
The Poetry of Peter Scupham
Anne Stevenson
Ghosts are a poet’s working capital.
They hold their hands out from the further shore.
(‘Prehistories’,
1975)

Poetry, although it has long laid claim to values far superior to those of the market place, is really a very competitive field of endeavour, so it is an irony that the games poets play are rarely won in their lifetimes but depend on the assessments of generations that come after them – especially today when standards have been broadened to allow anyone who cares to compete to enter the ring. Given present conditions, I was at a loss as to how to introduce the deep-rooted, surely unique poetry of Peter Scupham until in a serendipitous moment I received from a poet-editor in North Carolina a just published Selected Poems 1950–1985 of Radcliffe Squires, an American poet whose teaching assistant I was lucky enough to be when a graduate student at the University of Michigan. I have long feared that Squires’ poetry, like Scupham’s in England, was in danger of being overlooked in the contemporary melee, so it was with a sense of pleased rediscovery that I opened this welcome gift to find in the introduction an apt passage from Squires’ 1974 essay, ‘The Dark Side of the Moon’, first published in the Sewanee Review. ‘The act of creation’, wrote Squires, ‘involves really two processes or aspects that are at war with each other but which must nevertheless be made one.’ These he identified as a ‘feral’ voice (Frost’s wildness whereof poetry is made), which, in any well- constructed poem, tends to quarrel with ...


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