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This item is taken from PN Review 147, Volume 29 Number 1, September - October 2002.

News & Notes
Everyone knows that teachers are multi-skilled multi-taskers. This is one reason why Ink Pellet, the arts magazine for teachers, believes that some teachers will want to exploit their writing skills by entering the first-ever poetry competition specifically devised for those who work in full-time education.

All the poems submitted for the prize will be read by Michael Schmidt, who will select three prize-winning poems and publish the main prize-winner in PN Review. Other prizes will consist of leading Carcanet titles and magazine subscriptions. For further information contact Ink Pellet at Kettle Chambers, 21 Stone Street, Cranbrook, Kent TN17 3HF or by e-mail:

The New York Times made much of a censorship scandal (produced by strict 'sensitivity review guidelines' in force for some time) which has afflicted some of the exams that New York State regulations require public (state) high school students to take in order to graduate. A concerned parent, sampling papers from the last three years, has found that the majority of the passages students have been asked to comment on and to answer questions about have been sanitized. Isaac Bashevis Singer, William Maxwell, Chekhov are all tidied up, for transparently political reasons. References to Judaism are purged from Singer, in the interests of universality of appeal. 'Skinny' is translated into 'thin, 'fat' into 'heavy', 'hell' into 'heck'. The word 'gringo' is not pukkah, people do not go to bars and wine and alcohol are, as much as can be, verboten. The excisions are in no way marked. Of thirty passages considered there were significant changes in nineteen - sufficiently significant to affect the fundamental meaning of the text. Fortunately, writers, publishers and parents are taking what action they can: the 'sensitivity review guidelines' evidently did not take aesthetic sensitivity into account.

The National English Literary Museum in Grahamstown, South Africa, has acquired a substantial archive of Guy Butler's papers and drawings to add to its previous holdings. A year after the poet's death, his family has deposited the remarkable archive in the Museum which Butler was instrumental in founding. It is possible that from the example and practice of the NEML, museums for other literary cultures in South Africa may emerge, including the SiSwati, SiNdebele, SePedi, Tsonga and ZhiVenda. Among recent manuscript acquisitions at the NELM are 32 years of lecture notes of J.M. Coetzee, Lionel Abrahams' extensive computer files, Gus Fergusson's scrapbooks and biographical material, and further records from David Philip Publishers, one of the significant poetry imprints in South Africa for many years.

A double issue of Aquarius (25/26) is dedicated to the work of a pair of friends and sparring-partners, GEORGE BARKER and W.S. GRAHAM. Guest-edited by the excellent A.T. (Trevor) Tolley, the issue includes previously unpublished material, facsimiles, telling memoirs, critical essays and poems. It is a handsome and valuable issue, a celebration which adds to understanding. Copies are available from the publisher, Eddie Linden, at Aquarius, Flat 4, Room B, 116 Sutherland Avenue, London W9 2QP

Eighteen years after Philip Larkin's death, and to mark the eightieth anniversary of his birth, HAROLD PINTER has edited a pamphlet selection of Larkin's poems, published by the Greville Press at £7.50 (6 Mellors Court, The Butts, Warwick CV34 4ST). This publication provides a timely introduction to Larkin's work for a new generation reaching 'poetry age'. Readers will find such confirmed early favourites as 'Mr Bleaney' and 'The Whitsun Weddings' to the celebrated late poem 'Aubade'. Pinter's tribute, writes the publisher Antony Astbury, 'confirms Larkin's reputation for thoughtfulness, irony, self-doubt, humility and the search for completely honest feeling and with it his place as one (of only two or three at most) of England's leading modern poets.'

The Spring 2002 issue of Samizdat, published by Robert Archambeau from 895 Burton Avenue, Highland Park, Illinois 60035, USA, is dedicated to the life work of JOHN MATTHIAS, who has crossed the Rubicon of 60 this year. A poem and a series of generous observations by Michael Anania lead into a remarkable portrait of the poet: critical, biographical and creative. Matthias was at the heart of a generation that included Robert Hass, Robert Pinsky and John Peck. Peck contributes a remarkable poem to the issue.

Poland's 'most compelling translator, poet and literary critic' - the Polish Cultural Institute declares - is Jerzy Jarniewicz, and he will be reading his newly translated poetry at the Polish Cultural Institute (34 Portland Place, London W1B 1HQ) and at Oxford between15 and 17 October. In late October and early November the poet Ewa Lipska will be in London, Warwick and Aldeburgh to launch her new Arc collection Pet Shops. For further information, contact Katy Hadwick at the Institute or e-mail

The Poetry School has published its ambitious programme of short courses, workshops and lectures. Summer-schools in Cornwall and Venice, classes and lectures at Somerset House, the South Bank, the Poetry Society and elsewhere in London, all feature. The Poetry School team, 'co-ordinated' by Mimi Khalvati, and the contributing teachers and facilitators make the programme especially valuable for poets who crave community and the challenge of seminar engagement.

At readers will encounter a new web workshop, based in Britain (many of the most active workshops are American-based). Poetrynow is open to writers from around the world. 'We are looking for a more intense workshop experience on a mastery board between peers who have been writing for some time,' writes Freda Edis (fiedis@fiedis.fsnet. The workshop 'will always be limited by size and open by invitation only, though anyone can view the website and workshop online'.


That most cheerful, irrepressibly optimistic man, and in some respects the most inventive poet of the New York School, KENNETH KOCH, died in New York in July. He was 77. He is grouped with John Ashbery, Frank O'Hara and James Schuyler, a grouping which tends to underplay the real differences between each poet's projects; their collaborations were inventive because of their differences, not their similarities, and what marks all four is the ability to work at tangents without ever quite abandoning the circumference. Koch started writing when he was five, under the influence of Shelley, whom he outgrew in his teens, taking doses of Byron and eventually of Eliot. As a soldier in the Philippines he kept himself sane (the word sells him short) by playing in language, making lines to make life's unbearables absurd and bearable. He studied at Harvard with Delmore Schwartz, and Ashbery and O'Hara were classmates. His prose memoirs, plays and poems have an abundance and a formal variety unparalleled in American writing. His Selected Poems and One Train are published in the United Kingdom by Carcanet.

Look at the clouds.
They may be what I look at most of all
Without seeing anything.
It may be that many other things are the same way
But with clouds it's obvious.
                            from 'A New Guide: 13'

His poems 'maintain power', Denis Donoghue wrote, 'by rarely choosing to exert it'. Koch is a virtuoso, 'a masterly innovator...who has used his extravagant powers of wit and invention to enlarge the sphere of the poetic' (David Lehman). 'A reliable lover,' said Paul Hoover, 'Koch never sets out to break your heart. It just happens.' For One Train and his American Selected Poems he was awarded the Bollingen Prize for poetry in 1995. Frank Kermode declared, 'Kenneth Koch, a unique poet, has continued to explain his - own idea of what made sense , writing poems for forty years, without ceasing to be human and funny, without ever forgetting what poetry is. He is above all a love poet, therefore a serious one.'

The leading Hungarian poet OTTA ORBAN died in May at the age of 66. Much of his popularity was due to his exuberance, his humour and the almost outrageous range of his poetry in formal and thematic terms. His translations from the English included Lowell and Ginsberg; he was not confined to the twentieth century but ranged back as far as Chaucer.

The Scottish poet and broadcaster GEORGE BRUCE died in Edinburgh in July. He was 93, one of the last of the great MacDiarmid generation, and himself responsible for promoting the work of his contemporaries on radio and later on television. During his sixty years as a published poet he produced eight books. They are characterized by a formal conservatism (in English and in Scots) and a deep commitment to a social vision of community and decency under threat. His work for radio in the 1940s and later was rather experimental, taking risks with 'sound quality' in order to get close to his subjects in his field recordings. He became an important television producer and was widely, though not universally, celebrated at home and abroad. Douglas Dunn in his 1992 Faber Book of Twentieth-Century Scottish Poetry excludes him from the story. His poem 'The Singing of the Foxes' is included in the Graham/Barker issue of Aquarius described above. 'The little foxes call in the dark./I hear them as the generations/ heard them, and their message is/ "We are as we were. Listen for/if Nature is not heeded you are/the endangered species'''.

The American poet PHILIP WHALEN died in June at the age of 78. He was one of the Six Poets at the Six Gallery reading in October 1955 when Ginsberg recited Howl and the San Francisco Renaissance got on the road. He remained a benign presence within the San Francisco scene, his contribution one of constancy and mentoring. His life and his work were affected by the various enthusiasms that directed and redirected the culture of the West Coast. He became a much loved Zen monk. Like many of his contemporaries, he begins in Williams. Unlike Ginsberg, he did not have the sour memories of the East Coast to come to terms with. He was Ben Fagan in Kerouac's Big Sur and Warren Coughlin in Dharma Bums. He is a poet with whom the new Green Critics could well engage. ALAN BRUNTON, the New Zealand radical poet and performer, died in Amsterdam in June, in his 56th year. He ran the Red Mole theatre group and when he died they were on tour. Described by his admirers as charismatic, he saw his task, in a delighting and absurdist spirit, as narrowing the distance between audience and art; his art was in love with the contingent, the political, but never the parochial. He was a poeta doctus, in love with French symbolism, Joyce and Anglo-Saxon poetry, but also in love with demotic culture. His obituarists lamented the fact that he had not received New Zealand's highest artistic awards. Surely this is a mark of his achievement, rather than otherwise. His anarchic romanticism remains an awkward option for young writers today.

This item is taken from PN Review 147, Volume 29 Number 1, September - October 2002.

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