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This article is taken from PN Review 251, Volume 46 Number 3, January - February 2020.

on Michael Edwards
Michael Edwards, At the Brasserie Lipp (Carcanet) £9.99
Thomas Day
Paris coffee and croissants is the weird
real this morning, and a writing hand.
                    – Michael Edwards, At the Brasserie Lipp

'The weird real'

‘Weird’ is a word I remember hearing, and being struck by, while studying under Michael Edwards. It carried a certain weight: moments in Baudelaire, in Eliot, in Hill, were ‘weird’. It felt like an acknowledgement that poetry, at its most potent, can disarm critical response. The weirdness was sometimes a source of fascination, sometimes an impediment to empathy, as if Edwards were pondering what made poet X unique, idiosyncratic, and, implicitly, quite unlike himself. Above all, the word bespoke a kind of penetrating perplexity that has its connection to another Edwardsian keyword, wonder.

‘[T]he real’ is ‘weird’, in section 28 of At the Brasserie Lipp, in that it is cause of wonder, but also because the otherness of the real resists the writer’s attempts to render it in language, through language: so much so that the breakthroughs, when they come, seem mysterious, quasi-miraculous even. The poet, in Edwards’s conception, aims to release the real by bringing to it a freshness of perception and a quality of wakeful attention, which draw the reader closer to the phenomena he has his sights on, or his ears or nose open to. By the same token, the felt presence of the phenomenal world is what the writing hand, working with imperfect material, grasps clumsily and belatedly at, hence ‘and a writing hand’ registering as a lumpen appendage in this opening sentence of this section – ...

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