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This item is taken from PN Review 266, Volume 48 Number 6, July - August 2022.

News & Notes
The Poet of Old Hall · Poet, bookseller and publisher Peter Scupham died on 11 June, aged eighty-nine. He was at home in Norfolk. His partner Margaret Stewart said he went, ‘very quietly, with the sunshine pouring through the open French windows’. He’d received, just in time, finished copies of his last book, Invitation to View, and was pleased to hold it and hear what it had to say.

Peter was a contributor to the first issue of Poetry Nation – the second poet, after Charles Tomlinson, in that historic number – and appeared a total of seventy-five times in the next fifty years. His last contribution was to PNR 260, last year. PNR celebrated his work as a poet and eccentric Englishman on his eighty-fifth birthday in 2018 with a Scupham supplement

Michael Schmidt, his long-time editor, said: ‘Peter is a poet I loved almost from my arrival in the UK. He was a superlative second-hand bookseller whose Mermaid Books catalogues were harmonies of erudition and hilarity and whose prices were always within range. His envelopes he often decorated with drawings that added to the merriment of his correspondence. The garden of the Old Hall that he and Margaret Stewart restored was a gathering-place for poets, with summer Shakespeare performances and a permanent welcome.’

He was published first by Peterloo Poets, Harry Chambers’s Manchester venture, and then by OUP. Carcanet took over the OUP poetry list and he became formally Carcanet’s. He knew something about publishing himself. He and his friend John Mole were proper, inky-fingered publishers, with letterpress and hand-stitching. Their Mandeville Press produced handsome, significant pamphlets and the legendary Dragon Cards.

‘Few poets in my experience are as generous, cheerful and formally accomplished as Peter,’ his editor said. ‘As he lay preparing for death, I asked him to record some of his new poems. He roused himself and with his usual smiling precision of voice read. Margaret recorded him on her phone and this happy effort will soon be shared, along with a fine tribute by John Mole.’

In a blog, he wrote: ‘When Margaret and I bought a semi-derelict and ramshackle Tudor house perched in long grass on the edge of nowhere, we eventually opened it under a scheme called “Invitation to View”. The house and its putting together is one of the themes in this collection, but the invitation is seen as made by our ghosts, when what we have done and made is just one more arrangement of tantalising dust and wilderness. That invitation set apart, I would not want this book to be about studying one’s X-ray plates in a deck chair, or making cumbrous farewells. I hope there is a spring lyricism, albeit tempered by a certain wintery nip.’

Masters, believers and doubters · The shortlists for the 2022 Forward Prizes for Poetry were announced in mid-June. The Forwards turn thirty this year and are moving house, leaving London and bravely descending on the provinces. Indeed, the prize-giving will be celebrated a couple of miles from the PN Review offices at Manchester University’s Contact Theatre.

As usual, the shortlists – chosen this year by novelist Fatima Bhutto (chair), and poets Stephen Sexton, Rishi Dastidar, alice hiller, and Nadine Aisha Jassat – are for Best Collection (£10,000), Best First Collection (Felix Dennis Prize, £5,000) and Best Single Poem (£1,000). Chatto & Windus provides three of the shortlisted titles. The Best Collection shortlist includes:

     Kaveh Akbar – Pilgrim Bell (Chatto)
     Anthony Joseph – Sonnets for Albert (Bloomsbury)
     Shane McCrae – Cain Named the Animal (Little Brown)
     Kim Moore – All the Men I Never Married (Seren)
     Helen Mort – The Illustrated Woman (Chatto)

The Best First Collection shortlist introduces:

     Mohammed El-Kurd – Rifqa (Haymarket)
     Holly Hopkins – English Summer (Penned in the Margins)
     Padraig Regan – Some Integrity (Carcanet)
     Warsan Shire – Bless the Daughter Raised by a Voice in Her Head (Chatto)
     Stephanie Sy-Quia – Amnion (Granta)

The Forward Prize for Best Single Poem includes PN Review’s own Carl Phillips:

     Louisa Campbell, ‘Dog on a British Airways Airbus’ (Perverse)
     Cecilia Knapp, ‘I’m Shouting I LOVED YOUR DAD at my Brother’s Cat’ (Perverse)
     Nick Laird, ‘Up Late’ (Granta)
     Carl Phillips, ‘Scattered Snows, to the North’ (PNR)
     Clare Pollard, ‘Pollen’ (Bad Lilies)

Fatima Bhutto said: ‘As the Chair of the Forward Prize judges, to spend the better part of a year thinking about poetry has been an incredible gift. The collections we pored over reminded me of the care and power strangers exert over each other in so many delicate and fragile ways. We have assembled here a collection of debut writers, masters, believers and doubters, all of them innate observers of our intimate lives.’ The winners of this year’s prizes will be announced on 28 November at a live event at Contact Theatre, Manchester. Lucy Macnab, Co-Executive Director of the Forward Arts Foundation, said: ‘we view this partnership with Keisha Thompson and Contact as a significant step toward our future strategic vision: to move away from the dominance of London in the UK’s creative and cultural life; a drive toward working more inclusively with young people, emerging voices, and diverse audiences, putting them at the centre of our practice; and working with partners that put poetry at the heart of their creative offer.’ Thompson, the first practicing poet to lead a theatre as Artistic Director, said: ‘Poetry has always been a big part of what we do at Contact and it’s going to be so important to me as I lead the theatre. Partnering with the Forward Prizes is a wonderful way to start.’

Wild Shetland · The 2021 Highland Book Prize was awarded to Jen Hadfield for her collection The Stone Age (Picador). The prize was announced at a ceremony hosted by the Highland Society of London at Moniack Mhor, with live and online audiences.

‘The poems in The Stone Age evoke the wild landscape of Shetland, where Hadfield lives. A member of the volunteer reading panel said, ‘This exploration of neurodiversity in poetry is authentic and original. The individual poems each have a jewel-like quality that grab the reader with a host of fresh images and aperÇus.’

Griffin · This year’s Griffin Prizes have gone to Tolu Oloruntoba (Canadian winner, $65,000) for The Junta of Happenstance (Anstruther Books/Palimpsest Press), ‘an exploration of disease, both medical and emotional’ which also ‘explores family dynamics, social injustice, the immigrant experience, economic anxiety and the nature of suffering’; and to the American Douglas Kearney (International winner, $65,000) for Sho (Wave Books) in which his ‘genius, vulnerability, and virtuosity are on full display’. The judges were Adam Dickinson (Canada), Valzhyna Mort (Belarus/US), and Claudia Rankine (Jamaica/US). There were 639 entries, including 57 translations from 24 languages, submitted by 236 publishers from 16 countries.

C. Day-Lewis · May 22nd marked the fiftieth anniversary of the death of quondam poet laureate C. Day-Lewis, and to mark the event Wadham College, Oxford staged a one-day exhibition. From July to September the Bodleian Library are hosting a display from their Day-Lewis archive. In addition, Professor Albert Gelpi made a perceptive selection of Day-Lewis’s poetry which can be viewed on the website of Agenda.

O Caledonia · Elspeth Barker, an unconventional Scot who refined her unusual existence into O Caledonia, published in 1991, died in April. O Caledonia is rooted in Barker’s own eccentric life, though it begins in the wake of her imagined demise. Her Gothic settings, love of jackdaws and wild things as favoured companions, of books, and her avoidance of the boys that troubled her childhood, are vividly evoked. The natural description is brilliant and shockingly memorable.

O Caledonia was successful in Great Britain and in translation across Europe. By the time it was published the author was fifty-one, her partner being the poet George Barker whom she joined at the age of twenty-two (he was fifty) and finally married. She was eighty-two years old at the time of her death and her daughter the novelist Raphaela Barker said that she had died simply of old age, a plausible explanation. The story of her life would be a wonderful project for a patient nature- or life-writer. It would entail the lives of other writers, her children and step-children, and her predecessors in George Barker’s affections, notably Elizabeth Smart, who seems to have engineered her romance with Mr Barker to set herself free of him.

The poet Hilary Davies, widow of Sebastian Barker and step-daughter-in-law of Elspeth, wrote to us with the sad news that Elspeth Barker’s brilliant step-son Christopher, author (as photographer and designer) of Portraits of Poets (Carcanet/Folio Society, 1986), died four days later. Hilary remarked, ‘They were links to another world, the 1940s poets, that have gone.’

Dollies · The great Portuguese painter Paula Rego, born in 1935, died on 8 June. She was a lover of poetry and a longstanding friend of PN Review, contributing cover images and ekphrastic occasions to many poets. Her principal male model and companion Anthony Rudolf is also a long-term contributor to the magazine and in PNR 267 we will include his poem ‘Paula Rego’s Studio and her “Dollies”’.

We invited her friend the poet Dan Burt to recall her as a painter and a lover of music.

This item is taken from PN Review 266, Volume 48 Number 6, July - August 2022.

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