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This report is taken from PN Review 111, Volume 23 Number 1, September - October 1996.

Staying Tuned Lawrence Sail

One of the most common rhymes for 'June' is, of course, 'tune', as Browning's bean-flowers and blackbird and Burns's red red rose remind us: but when P.J. Kavanagh, in The Spectator of 1 June this year, wrote about the importance of 'tune' in poems, it was more in the context of a threnody, for he had two baleful items of news to deliver. The magazine was to stop publishing poems; and his own Life & Letters column had, as he wrote, 'been put out to grass'. So, the demise of an airy, enjoyable and thoughtful monthly page of prose, and another outlet for poems gone up the spout, joining such chers défunts as The Listener, Encounter and Radio 3's Poetry Now. Not that The Spectator has always been open to poems. Kavanagh relates the genesis of its hospitality, his suggestion in 1984 to the then editor (Charles Moore) and literary editor (Ferdinand Mount) that the magazine might 'put a few reasonably comprehensible poems under the nose of Spectator readers who had given up poetry for lost years ago'. He sets out clearly what qualities he was looking for in submissions - up to 200 poems a month, from which he would choose perhaps four: 'Tune, liveliness of observation and vocabulary, economy, shape. Perhaps the most important of these is tune - cadence, rhythm, euphony, that almost indefinable sound and sense of the right words in the right order.' Most submissions were easily rejected 'because their writers seemed to imagine ...


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