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

HUGO YOUR WAY… HUGO WILLIAMS, Freelancing: Adventures of a Poet (Faber) £14.99

I fell in love with poetry and Hugo Williams when I was fourteen. It was the spring of 1962, the season of Alvarez's The New Poetry and the very first Penguin Modern Poets, that February The London Magazine was mostly devoted to a survey called 'Poetry 1962', and there he was, in a winsomely grinning holiday snap among the earnest middle-aged mug-shots, not looking a day older than fourteen himself. 'I am easily influenced, and as easily warned,' he wrote in his reply to the questionnaire (which hadn't, in his case, had to travel far, since he worked in the LM office), adding: 'A few minutes ago I heard a girl on Radio Luxemburg confess that she had 500 pictures of Billy Fury and every disc he'd ever cut and yet she'd never liked him.' It was amazing. Thom Gunn, the only other poet who dared to appear at all cheerful, had set the precedent with poems like 'On the Move' and 'Elvis Presley', but he was grown-up and in California: here was someone apparently more or less of my own age doing the same thing. When could I start? I started right away.

The style of feckless reminiscence which informs so many of these pieces is, you see, infectious. It is also just a touch worrying. In 1962 Williams was precociously ahead of his time: the pop references still carried a real frisson, the currency of youth hadn't yet been devalued, and the brief period when ...


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