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

Readings
Reading Peter Scupham
Andrew Biswell
I suppose I must have started reading Peter Scupham soon after the publication of his Collected Poems in 2002. The qualities of his writing were immediately obvious to me: I was pleased to find a poet who could make traditional forms work for him, and who roamed gleefully up and down the formal spectrum, at the same time as writing in an easily-comprehended, colloquial style. I warmed to his erudition and classicism, especially his fondness for French, German and Latin culture, which his poems communicate without fuss or formality, as if such knowledge should form part of the ordinary experience of any civilised reader or writer.

Going back to the Collected Poems and its successor volume recently, I’ve enjoyed spending time with Scupham’s longer sequences, such as ‘Playtime in a Cold City’ in Borrowed Landscapes (٢٠١١), in which the poet recollects his student days in Cambridge in the ١٩٥٠s. Commemorating lost times and lamenting the passing of friends who shared them, these twenty-one poems form a structure whose resonance stretches far beyond the autobiographical or the anecdotal.

Having looked into the critical reception of Scupham’s poems in mainstream newspapers and journals since the 1970s, I am pleased to discover how overwhelmingly positive the reviews of his books have been. He was one of only a handful of contemporary poets to have been acclaimed by Anthony Burgess – the others being Seamus Heaney and Paul Muldoon – during his short tenure as the poetry critic of the Spectator (edited at that time by Alexander Chancellor) in ...


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