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Readers are asked to send a note of any misprints or mistakes that they spot in this item to editor@pnreview.co.uk

This item is taken from PN Review 110, Volume 22 Number 6, July - August 1996.

News & Notes
CORRECTION: In the poem by Tom Leonard printed in PN Review 109, the first line ('access to the silence') should have been centred: and the word 'attached' in line three should have read 'attacked'.

The New York Times reported in April that on the Amtrak metroliner from New York to Washington the conductor invited passengers 'to pick up a free copy of a book of poetry classics to celebrate National Poetry Month'. 100 Best Loved Poems was distributed from the café car, an attempt to get people back into the poetry habit. The project was launched by the American Poetry and Literacy project which aims to place a book of poems alongside the Gideon Bible in every hotel room in America. The inspiration for the project is Joseph Brodsky. More realistic in the short term, perhaps, is that legendary initiative of Judith Chernaik, whose Poems on the Underground and attendant anthologies (and now a prize sponsored jointly with the Times Literary Supplement) has found echoes on public transport systems around the world.

Orcadian poet novelist and story-writer GEORGE MACKAY BROWN died in Kirkwall on 13 April at the age of 74. An Orkney man through and through, Brown only once visited England. His poems and prose belong to his landscape and its people, and a distinctive body of work it is, rooted in a culture which is adjusting at its own pace to the latter part of this century. Here he found 'a microcosm of all the world'. His is the life Edwin Muir, who taught him at Newbattle Abbey outside Edinburgh in the 1950s, might have led had his family not been forced to move to the mainland in his boyhood. 'It should not be obligatory,' Brown wrote, 'for poets to celebrate, as best they can, only the greyness of contemporary life.' His celebrations were more often Rilkean, though in his last years he suffered intense depressions and was only sustained by his Roman Catholic faith, the church to which he turned after a Presbyterian upbringing.

WOLFGANG KOEPPEN died on 15 March, writes Christopher Middleton, just a few months before his ninetieth birthday. Besides being accounted among the most incisive documents of post-war German writing, the three novels he published during the 1950s, Tauben im Gras, Das Treibhaus and Der Tod in Rom, are some of the very best twentieth-century German prose. Koeppen travelled widely, young and later. His writings on Russia, the United States, France and Spain ('Ein Fetzen von der Stierhaut'), exemplify again the rich perceptual and intellectual tensions, exuberance and reserve, insight and scepticism, which earned him deep admiration as a writer's writer, but no less as a pioneering narrator of his times.

The Italian poet novelist and playwright DARIO BELLEZZA died of AIDS-related causes in Rome in March at the age of 51. Rome was to him what Orkney was to George Mackay Brown, an entire and sufficient world, where he was born into a poor family and there he remained a man of the streets. Admired and supported by Pasolini, Morante, Moravia, and Sandro Penna, he won important awards but remained poor and died in relative obscurity.

Just short of her eightieth birthday, the poet JEAN MACVEAN died in May. She was one of the first women to be a department head at MI6. She wrote a novel, plays and poems, and she was a regular contributor to Agenda. Her finest poems, William Cookson said in the Independent, 'have a hard-earned simplicity -the kind of poetry that is often the most difficult to make'.

The Danish poet PIET HEIN died in April at Middelfart at the age of ninety. Artist and scientist by training (he studied with atomic physicist Niels Bohr), he is best known for his aphoristic poems, Grooks, published under the pseudonym Kumbel Kumbell, which began to appear during the German occupation in 1940. Hein may have written as many as 10,000 of them.

The composer ALPHONSE HULEUX died in January in Belgium, writes Yann Lovelock. He was 82. Among his distinguished compositions are a number of operas (both serious and light), and settings of songs by Rene Godeau. Huleux wrote poems in Walloon and French. His French poems played a part dUring wartime resistance and were known also in France and England.

Musician Christopher johnson, who edited the Skoob Book lists that brought significant writings by Michael Hamburger, David Gascoyne and Kathleen Raine back into circulation and published new work, died in April at the age of 51.

Readers of Oliver Twist may recall that 'filthiest, strangest' most extraordinary place called Jacob's Island, where the villain is finally run to ground by a howling mob, writes David Arkell. Modern flats now being built on the site near Tower Bridge promise 'a safe and secure living environment with lifts giving direct access to video-monitored underground car-parks'. It's all come too late for Bill Sykes.

The late Sir Kingsley Amis, writes Janet Montefiore, has been widely described by his obituarists as a misogynist: Mary Braid reporting his death in the Independent used the word. So did obituarist David Lodge. Misogynism means 'hatred of women'. I do not think this was a vice of Amis's, however much he like the idea of male privilege. He showed no trace of rancour in the correspondence I had with him. I asked his permission to reprint part of is poem 'In a Bookshop' in my book Feminism and Poetry, one of whose chapters begins a discussion of love-sonnets by women with a quotation from this poem, contrasting the way male poets go in for titles like 'Landscape near Parma' or 'The Double Vortex' with "'I Remember You". "Love is My Creed", "Poem for J." - The ladies' choice.' One might expect both the title of my book and the way I use the poem, which I describe as 'good-tempered but patronising to be to a right-wing misogynist what the proverbial rag is to the bull. Actually, Amis wrote to me a friendly letter of permission, saying that the poem wasn't meant to patronise women; on the contrary, its point was that women's emotional directness was preferable to men's self-regarding intellectualism. (I don't agree with this reading, but the poem does satirise masculine pretentiousness as well as feminine emotionalism). He ended by wishing my book well, and hoping it would mention Christina Rossetti, a poet he admired. His letter, sent to my publishers, did not reach me for several months, and I delayed replying. When I finally did write, his response was, again, warm and generous. It is much to the credit of this 'misogynist' that though he didn't know me, didn't - notoriously - like books with 'Feminism' in the title, and didn't agree with what I said about his poem, he neither resented my saying it, nor (as he could have done) prevented me from publishing it in the way I thought right. Not every writer is so generous.

This item is taken from PN Review 110, Volume 22 Number 6, July - August 1996.



Readers are asked to send a note of any misprints or mistakes that they spot in this item to editor@pnreview.co.uk
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