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This item is taken from PN Review 122, Volume 24 Number 6, July - August 1998.

News & Notes
NIZAR KABBIANI, the Syrian-born poet and one of the most popular Arabic-language poets of the century, died in April at the age of 76. His colourful childhood led through an education in law and into the diplomatic corps, where he served in embassies in Cairo, London, Beijing and Madrid. Each year he produced a book of poems, deploying classical Arabic and Modernist forms. He managed to introduce the demotic into the heart of his work. Love pitted against social and sexual taboos became a dominant theme, and by extension the wider themes of liberation, but all commencing in the body. He adopted female personae for many of his poems. He became a publisher in Beirut in 1966. When he read and lectured publicly he attracted huge audiences - on one occasion in the Sudan, 10,000. His poetry changed tack after the 1967 Israeli victories: he inveighed against the newspeak of the Arab governments political rhetoric, the distance between language and what it named, language and the actions it described or enjoined. Kabbani remained a resident of Beirut well into the years of the Civil War. His wife was killed by a car bomb and he spent his remaining years in Switzerland, France and London, where he settled. His work is said to have sold over 10,000,000 copies. He was feared and flattered by the governments of Iraq and Syria. His work, while it belongs very much to its occasions, has a directness and simplicity which make it durable in Arabic, his critics claim, and which make it translatable in more accessible forms than the work of Darwish and others. Poetry and politics should both be awake to 'Mankind's cause and voice' - the actual language that people speak, whether in prayer, in bed, in the suq or over a shisha.

The prolific Yiddish poet and essayist MORDECHAI STRIGLER died in May at the age of 74. From 1987 he edited the leading and the oldest Yiddish newspaper, Forverts. A secularist, he retained a connection with orthodoxy. He was born in Poland into an Hasidic family. He fought during the war, was captured and incised on the forehead with a swastika, spending the rest of the war in concentration camps and joining the resistance at Buchenwald. Most of his family perished in the camps. In 1953 he emigrated to the United States. He also wrote in Hebrew, one of the last of the East European Jewish writers to do so.

MORRIS COX, poet, novelist and artist, died at the end of March. He was 94. He will be best remembered as a graphic artist and as one of the remarkable makers of unique books of our time. His failure as a commercially-published poet led to his publishing his own work - but the poem was not merely the sounds arranged in lines on the page. It was the paper, the typography, illustration and binding, an entire experience. His press was called Gogmagog and its products are collectors' items. Most of his output consisted of his own writings and illustrations, in the tradition of William Blake.

PEGGY GARLAND, the sculptor, graphic artist and poet, died in May, also at 94. Her work as an artist is scattered widely - in South Africa, New Zealand and Britain. She left a mark on W.H.Auden and on Patrick White. Her poetry was mainly written - and best received - in New Zealand.

The German media and publishing giant Bertelsmann acquired Random House, the American publishing house which owns Random House UK with its once-proud independent lists now imprints: Hutchinson, Cape, Chatto and other hardand paperback lists, one of the great prizes of English-language publishing. Reminiscing about the Old Days in the New Yorker, Jacob Epstein comments, 'What had been a craft is now an irrational accretion of improvisational adjustments to historic accidents, a largely fossilized organism that can no longer be deconstructed. Its future depends on how well its remaining energies can be directed toward new technological possibilities.' Also, one assumes, on its profitability.

The Australian poet and critic VIVIAN SMITH received the 1997 Patrick White Literary Award. His books include six volumes of poetry, most recently New Selected Poems (HarperCollins, 1995), as well as a number of books on Australian poetry and a study of Robert Lowell.

The 1997 European Poetry Translation Prize has been awarded to DAVID CONSTANTINE for his translations of Hölderlin's Selected Poems (Bloodaxe) and to Francis R. Jones for his translations of Ivan Lalic, A Rusty Needle (Anvil).

The fifteenth annual Kanto Poetry Centre Conference will convene at the Kanto Gakuin University Seminar House in Hayama, Japan, from 6 to 8 August. The readers include Rin Ishigaki, Naoko Kudo, Mikiro Sasaki and Nuala ní Dhomhnaill, who will also lecture and whose poetry will be the subject of a seminar by Professor Mitsuko Ohno. A second seminar will concentrate on Chuya Nakahara's poems, and a third on poetry and the computer. On the final day the Roba group will perform: they specialise in 'making varieties of music from paper (newspaper, note paper, etc)'. For further information contact the Kanto Poetry Centre at (045) 786 7179, or William I. Elliott, Kanto Gakuin University, Kamariya Minami 3-22-1, Kanazawa-ku, Yopkohama 236-8502, Japan.

Manticore [writes David Kennedy] is the journal of 'The Surrealist Group in Leeds'. It is printed on fine paper in a broadsheet format and covers a wide range of activity. Issue 1 gives a brief chronology of the group and statements from its members; issue 2 features the Czech surrealist film-maker Jan Svankmajer and an obituary-appreciation of the painter Philip West. Manticore costs £4 for 4 issues. Details from Kenneth Cox, 6 Aberdeen Grove, Leeds LS12 3QY or at

The Scottish magazine Chapman, which calls itself 'Scotland's Quality Literary Magazine', marks its twenty-fifth anniversary with an exhibition at the Writers' Museum. Lady Stairs House, Lady Stairs Close, Lawnmarket, Edinburgh, which runs until 26 July. It has grown from an eight-page pamphlet to a book-sized publication featuring new writing and work by established authors and edited by the vigorous Joy Hendry. Another significant birthday is Anvil Press's thirtieth - a list of great vision and integrity.

PETER FINCH, the Welsh poet, critic and compiler of the poetry section in Macmillan's useful Writer's Handbook, is leaving his job as manager of the Stationery Office Oriel Bookshop, Cardiff, where he has maintained one of the prime poetry sections in the British book trade. He is to become the new head of the Welsh Academi which has won the Arts Council of Wales franchise to run the Welsh National Literature Promotion Agency, providing services for writers and readers while continuing the functions of the original Academi Gymraeg, the magazine Taliesin, the new Encyclopaedia of Wales and the Cardiff National Poetry Competition.

This item is taken from PN Review 122, Volume 24 Number 6, July - August 1998.

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