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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 120, Volume 24 Number 4, March - April 1998.

News & Notes
The Guyanese poet MARTIN CARTER died in December 1997 at the age of 70. He was born in Georgetown, British Guiana, and educated there at Queens College. He became a schoolteacher, an activist, and was imprisoned without trial in 1953. His first book, Poems of Resistance, appeared in 1954, a publication which set him among the articulate internationalist anti-colonial leaders of the time. He was a representative at the 1965 pre-Independence constitutional negotiations in London and represented his independent country at the UN, and was for three years Minister of Information and Culture, working too for the major sugar-producers Booker McConnell. He was noted as a man for his accessibility and his generosity; as a poet he is thought of internationally still as the author of Poems of Resistance, though he published several later collections and developed largely from Caribbean resources, including the francophone poetry of the region. He spent most of his life in Guyana and travelled abroad rarely and briefly (apart from 1975 which he spent as poet in residence at the University of Essex). His poems trace the development of modern Guyana from its struggle for independence through the Forbes Burnham dictatorship and its aftermath.

On 13 December the French poet, critic and novelist CLAUDE ROY died. He was 82. Associated in his early years with the farright Catholic interests of the Action Française, he wrote his early essays from that orientation. He served in the War, received the Croix de Guerre, and escaped captivity. In 1943 he became a Communist, befriending Eluard, Aragon and Elsa Triolet. Marguerite Duras arranged for his first slim volume of verse, Claire comme le jour, to be published on rationed paper in 1943. After the war he became a journalist and wrote his 'critical descriptions' of writers, including Supervielle and Aragon, which concentrated on the pleasure of reading and had no commerce with academic criticism. In 1985 he won the first Goncourt Prize ever given for verse. He is as quizzical as Ponge, without the clear purpose of his great contemporary. There is something provisional about his verse, in love as it is with small epiphanies. 'Notes and sketches', one critic called them admiringly, while withholding the word 'poems'. He will be best remembered for his Memoirs and some of his fiction.

DENISE LEVERTON died in December at the age of 74. In the late 1960s and early 1970s her fame in Britain was high: she was a natural, English bridge (albeit a complex one) to the Black Mountain and to an American poetry that promised new directions; but her removal to the United States and her establishment there of a highly successful academic and poetic career meant that she was occluded for a good two decades and when Bloodaxe began re-introducing her work she had become a remote phenomenon. Her formative years - she was educated at home by a Russian-Jewish father who converted to Anglicanism and became a priest and a scholar - gave her many of the metaphysical interests which her later work, and her sense of the poem's mission, developed. She married an American G.I. in 1947 and moved to France, living near Robert Creeley who became a friend and pointed her towards Black Mountain and the Great Talkers, Charles Olson and Robert Duncan. One of her rules: 'Insofar as poetry has a social function it is to awaken sleepers by other means than shock.' Vietnam changed that: she became a social poet who wanted to make a difference. She published over thirty books of poems.

SALLY PURCELL, a ubiquitous and much loved poet during the 1960s at Oxford and a remarkable scholar, died in January of a rare cancer. She was 53. Her family was descended from Henry Purcell's brother, whose body lies in Wytham parish church outside Oxford. She was born in Worcestershire, near where Housman and Geoffrey Hill were also born. She became a keen classicist, reading Mediaeval and Modern French at Lady Margaret Hall. She stayed in Oxford ever after. Her conversation was always astonishing: perfectly syntactical and rich in learning and humour. Her friend and publisher Peter Jay recalls how 'her delivery was evenly accented, as if English were French'. Her eccentricities were aspects of character rather than presentation. A passionate individual, she was passionate about facts, a scrupulous scholar for whom many of the conveniences of the modern world were an irrelevance. Her poems are concentratedly lyrical, rooted in a courtly past. In a way she is the great fifteenth-century poet we never had, a lover of Charles of Orléans, her adoptive uncle, whose verse she edited and who, like her, lived between cultures and languages. She published four books, the last - Fossil Unicorn - appearing as she was dying. Her work is so much of a piece that it is praise to say that this volume is as good as her first, The Holly Queen (1971).

The poet GEOFFREY HOLLOWAY died in October. He was 79. A librarian, after the war he became a social worker and mental health officer in Cumbria. His poems - few about his experiences of the Second World War, most based in his elected Cumbrian landscape - are sharply visualised, and his response to nature and to people is gruffly generous. His most recent book, And Why Not?, was published in 1996.

The translator of Hebrew poetry, a poet himself, ROBERT FRIEND, died in Jerusalem in January. He was 84. Born in New York, after the war he settled in Israel - in 1950 - and taught English and American literature at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem for three decades. He took his bearings as a writer from Forster, Auden and Frost. His verse found a candour to deal with his homosexuality, his cultural transformation, and the various worlds in which he lived. Ironically, he never quite got the hang of colloquial Hebrew and his translations were often collaboratively prepared with other scholars. A Professor, he never regarded himself as an academic.

Another significant translator, poet and novelist died at the age of 79 in December. He translated into Japanese and he was SIN'ICHIRO NAKAMURA. He is a writer of real substance and stature who, James Kirkup reflects, was never known outside Japan. He translated the prose of Gérard de Nerval and was part of a group which sought to revive Japanese literature after the war through a study of American and European works. He will be remembered primarily for his enormous novels which are unlikely to find their way into English in the near future.

The poet and man of letters WILLIAM MATTHEWS died in November at the age of 55. He was best-known, despite having received several major awards, as a poetry functionary, president of the Poetry Society of America, a member of the NEA literature panel, and a Professor at City College, New York. He was also a translator.

In the Bookseller (14 November 1997) 'Bent's Notes' carried a report from Tallinn which seems to have escaped the notice of the national press. 'English-language publishers world-wide should be alerted to the following memorandum that has happened across my desk.

'The European Commission has just announced an agreement that English will be the official language of the European Union rather than German... As part of the negotiations Her Majesty's Government conceded that English spelling has room for improvement, and has accepted a five-year phase-in of new rules which will apply to the language and will reclassify it as EuroEnglish. The agreed plan is as follows. In Year 1, the soft "c" will be replaced by "s". Sertainly this will make the sivil servants jump for joy. The hard "c" will be replased by "k". This should klear up konfusion... There will be growing publik enthusiasm in the sekond year, when the troublesome "ph" is replased by "f". This will reduse "fotograf" by 20%. In the 3rd year, publik akseptanse of the new spelling kan be expekted to reach the stage where more komplikated changes are possible. Governments will enkourage the removal of double letters, which have always been a deterent to akurate speling. Also, al wil agre that the horible mes of the silent "e" in the language is disgrasful and they should eliminat them. By Year 4 peopl wil be reseptiv to linguistik korektions such as replasing "th" with "z" and "w" with "v" (saving mor keyboard spas). During ze fiz year, ze unesesary "o" kan be droped from vords kontaining "ou", and similar adjustments vud of kors be aplid to ozer kombinatins of leters. After zis fifz year, ve vil hav a reli sensibl riten styl. Zer vil be no mor trubls or difikultis and evrion vil find it ezi to understand ech ozer. Ze drem vil finali kum tru!'

The National Federation of the Blind tried to ban the Disney Mr Magoo cartoon for its negative portrayal of the blind. Their American counterparts accepted a pay-off, with part of the royalties going to charities for the blind.

This item is taken from PN Review 120, Volume 24 Number 4, March - April 1998.



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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