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This review is taken from PN Review 143, Volume 28 Number 3, January - February 2002.

CERTAINTY AND DECENCY MARTIN STANNARD, Writing Down the Days: new and selected poems (Stride) £9.95
DIANA HENDRY, Borderers (Peterloo Poets) £7.95
NIGEL McLOUGHLIN, At the Water's Clearing (Flambard/Black Mountain) £7.00

In the early 1980s, if you wanted to know what was happening in British poetry you were probably reading magazines like Slow Dancer, The Wide Skirt, The North and Martin Stannard's Joe Soap's Canoe. These magazines shared regular contributors and, like an earlier ferment of small press activity in the 1960s and 1970s, an interest in American poetry. The American poetry favoured in these magazines derived from the New York School as opposed to Black Mountain or San Francisco groupings. To read Writing Down the Days is to be reminded what it was like to be reading those magazines and find, for example, Ian McMillan rubbing shoulders with Tony Towle and Charles North. This is not to suggest that Martin Stannard's poetry is an archaeological curiosity but to register the extent to which the work of Ashbery, Koch, O'Hara, Schuyler and later generations of New York poets have been fruitful influences.

Stannard's poetry is notable for the way it enacts particular ideas about the art which all owe some debt to the New York school. First, that is possible to be a man and write poetry without first having to pretend that it is a form of manual labour. Second, that poetry is not separate from life but, as O'Hara suggests in 'Poem Read at Joan Mitchell's', part of an 'uninterruptable' flow of experience animated by the individual's feelings about everything borne on that flow. Third, that it is possible to be selfreflexive without this becoming a repetitive enactment of ...


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