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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 155, Volume 30 Number 3, January - February 2004.

News & Notes
At the British Library until 1 February readers interested in the work of TED HUGHES can enjoy an exhibition entitled The Page is Printed, featuring rare books, magazines, manuscripts and other materials, including recordings from the sound archive. The poet Richard Price, Head of the Modern British Collections, has curated the display.

HUGH KENNER, the most spirited and inspiriting critic of Ezra Pound and an original and compelling advocate of the Modernists at large, died in November. He was eighty years old. With his fellow Canadian Marshall McLuhan, he went to meet Pound in 1948, when the poet was incarcerated in St Elizabeth's due to his wartime activities. He followed Pound's injunction (Pound provided him with letters of introduction) and met in the flesh, even befriending, many of the key writers who were to become his subjects, including Eliot, Beckett, Wyndham Lewis, William Carlos Williams, Marianne Moore, Bunting and Zukofsky. His most famous book, The Pound Era (1971), remains an indispensable introduction and polemic. It may be that he never quite did justice to Ford Madox Ford, and that his sense of Eliot was coloured by Eliot's own self-projection (the `anonymous cheese' incident), but he read his time with remarkable openness and a sense of humour uninfected by reductive irony. His distrust of England, indeed his frank dislike for cardinal elements in the English establishment and sensibility, led to his writing the contentious, entertaining and not entirely wrong-headed book The Sinking Island (1988). It is worth remembering that his very first published book was entitled Paradox In Chesterton (1947), and he had a strong sense of what had been possible in the early part of the twentieth century, and of what had sold that possibility short. In The Poetry Of Ezra Pound (1951) the real Hugh Kenner first stood up, and so, in a sense, for the first time in over a decade, did Ezra Pound, who became an unignorable figure, accessible and academically no longer untouchable. Dublin's Joyce (1956), Joyce's Voices (1978) and Ulysses (1980) did much to unencumber Joyce of the dense foliage of patristics that had overgrown his work. He was a critic who eschewed jargon, who allowed himself enthusiasms and passions, a man on whose bookshelves the dust was never allowed to settle.

CHARLES CAUSLEY's poetry was consistently undervalued for fifty years. His death in November, at the age of 86, like other deaths in recent months, released a wave of affection and enthusiasm which, had it come a decade or two earlier, might have contributed to his work's just appraisal. Causley's poetry is marked by a formal innocence. He knew about Modernism, but what he had to say required not fragmentation but narrative, often balladic in character. He wrote poems for children and about them. He turned to Lorca - not the surrealist, but the maker of ballads and popular songs. He turned to John Clare. `O Clare! Your poetry, clear, translucent/As your lovely name, /I salute you with tears.' Such simplicity cannot be simulated. He comes as close as a poet can to the sentimental without falling over into mawkishness. Like Clare, like Lorca, like De la Mare. Innocence was one of Causley's themes (a schoolmaster for most of his life, he knew the bright and dark sides of Blake's child): innocence and its betrayal. His years in the Navy (1940-6) enriched his diction with odd colloquial metaphors and expressions. It also gave him themes and subjects: `separation, loss, death in alien places, extraordinary characters, a perpetual sense of unease about how things might end'. He played the piano in a four-piece band before the war and the rhythms of his poems sometimes follow song and dance beats. He wrote plays. In 1940 he began to write verse. Farewell, Aggie Weston (1951) was his first substantial book, in the vulgar tongue and the vulgar forms of popular verse. Every five or six years he has added a further slim volume, with a Collected Poems in 1975 and another in 1992. Sassoon, Housman and the Georgians made him proof against Pound and Eliot. De la Mare, Betjeman and MacNeice were of use to him. His strong themes - the sea on the one hand, and a core of religious concerns and ambivalences on the other - he shared with the people he lived among. He was a Cornishman through and through.

MIQUEL MARTÍ I POL, the Catalan poet who despite his disability emerged as one of the great twentieth-century writers in his language, died in the town of his birth, Roda de Ter, in November. He was 74. Beginning life as a `minstrel', accompanying his poems on his guitar, he was a poet wedded to his language during the long Franco dictatorship, and his work emerged into the European limelight only after Franco's death. The poet fell victim to multiple sclerosis in 1970 and his long `afterlife', as he wryly called it, was circumscribed by the progress of the disease. He was uncontestably the most popular Catalan poet of the second half of the twentieth century.

RONAN (RENÉ) HUON, noted champion of the Breton language and its literature, died in October in Brest. He was 81. He was much affected by a year spent in Wales, during which he witnessed the ways in which a language can live and flourish, sustained in its literature and part of the educational culture of a nation. He was a journal editor and became, at his own expense, a book publisher of Breton literature. He was a translator of Welsh and English literature into Breton, and a gifted schoolmaster.

MARK ABLEY's Spoken Here: Travels among Threatened Languages is published by Heinemann on 1 January. The book considers the possible extinction of half the world's languages over the next century, examining too what might be lost with them.

BERYL GRAVES, Robert Graves's second wife, who supported the poet's work and tolerated his vagaries for decades, and co-edited with a firm and scholarly hand his 1,202 Complete Poems, died in October. She was 88. She was with Graves when he died in 1985, at the age of 90, and she had been his companion since the 1930s, in the aftermath of his turbulent and poetically fruitful relationship with Laura Riding. She had been a beautiful muse of some of his finest love poems.

MANUEL VAZQUEZ MONTALBAN, the Spanish author and creator of the Barcelona-based detective Pepe Carvalho, died in October at the age of 64. He died suddenly, apparently of heart failure, at Bangkok International Airport, on his way back to Madrid after giving a series of lectures in Sydney. His career as a poet, playwright and political commentator spanned four decades and included many literary awards, including the European Literature Award for his novel Galindez, the book of the forthcoming film The Galindez File with Saffron Burrows and Harvey Keitel. Vazquez Montalban spent three-years in prison due to his opposition to Franco. Late in the 1960s he published his first collection of poetry, and he developed a following in and outside Spain.

The poet, novelist, memoirist and the most colourful, helpful and cheerfully principled of literary agents GILES GORDON died in November after a fall at his home in Edinburgh. He was 63. He was a polymath, having started off as a writer and run the full gauntlet of the industry, as a distinguished publisher, an innovative editor, and finally an agent who discovered and encouraged talents and kept faith with his writers to an unusual degree. He was instrumental in helping us establish the PN Review lectures at the Literatures of the Commonwealth Festival, and though he represented only a handful of poets, poetry remained among his first enthusiasms. It was Gordon who persuaded Iain Crichton Smith to write his first novel, Consider The Lilies (1968) and published the fiction of George Mackay Brown. He remained a (not uncritical) Scot and returned to his native Edinburgh in 1995, working as an agent and sometimes a Tyro from that city. The affection in which he was held was reflected in his funeral service at St Giles Cathedral, Edinburgh, where he had been christened: a congregation of some 400 people, Scots and English, and a substantial portion of the London publishing world, attended. He was still a catalyst, making sad and wonderful things happen.

JAMES SUTHERLAND-SMITH is receiving the Hviezdoslav Prize for his literary translations and his work in disseminating Slovak poetry in the Anglophone world. The award consists of a symbolic statuette presented in a private audience by the President of Slovakia.

Poetry (Chicago) awarded the Levinson Prize for Poetry to Patrick McGuinness for a poem (`Borders') published in their July 2003 issue. The Levinson is `the oldest and most prestigious of Poetry's Prizes, and has been continuously awarded since 1914'.

The New Zealand poet and first Antarctic writer in residence BILL MANHIRE has been awarded the Katherine Mansfield Fellowship for 2004, and will be working in Menton, France in the new year for six months.

This item is taken from PN Review 155, Volume 30 Number 3, January - February 2004.



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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