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This article is taken from PN Review 107, Volume 22 Number 3, January - February 1996.

Roy Fisher: Magician of the Common Place Jeremy Hooker

The development of Roy Fisher's poetry from City (Migrant press, 1961), to his latest major collection, Birmingham River, published by Oxford University Press in 1994, owes a great deal to his defeat of what he has called, in a dialogue with Paul Lester, 'the demon of fixity and solidity'. The 'demon' determines the kind of seeing that dominates City. an eidetic recall that freezes both the seen and the seer, petrifying him in front of a static urban world. City has, indeed, vividly visual qualities, but these are also symptomatic of the poet's alienation, his situation as virtually a thing among things, like a statue. As Fisher acknowledges in the poem, he is 'afraid of becoming/A cemetery of performance'. There are also, however, qualities that work against stasis in City, and it is partly with the aid of these that Fisher has broken out of the prison of extreme self-consciousness.

There is, for example, his ability to read the shapes and signs of the urban world as a system by which authority determines social and psychological 'reality'. Another strength is his sense of cosmic energy, espedally in the form of the sun, without which there would be no seeing and, indeed, no life. The fluidity of Fisher's finest poetry over the past thirty years has a lot to do with his increasing awareness of Nature not only as a force but also as a spring of imaginative energy, with which the human mind makes and dissolves its ...


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