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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 99, Volume 21 Number 1, September - October 1994.

News & Notes
The poet, novelist and biographer JOHN WAIN has died in Oxford at 69. A contemporary of Jennings, Larkin and Amis, he was like them a reluctant benefidary of 'The Movement', deeply affected by Empson and Auden, then rebellious against the disciplines evident in A Word Carved on a Sill(1956). Wildtrack(1965) and Feng (1975) assayed the freedoms of dramatic narrative and tried to break new ground, surrealising the essentially ratiocinative approach he began with, seeking resonances in history and legend but impoverishing what had been the suggestive, elaborated texture of his language. He was Professor of Poetry at Oxford from 1973 to 1978 and remained an accessible friend of writers. His essays, reviews and anthologies were marked by an at times wilful perceptiveness, and he may have experienced bitterness that he never achieved the presence as a poet he hoped for. It was his insistence on the 'freedom' of poetry as against the realism of his prose writing, and his refusal to develop personal styles in verse, despite insistences of personality in the lyrical poems, that meant each book was a new beginning and book by book there is little sense of progression or growth. A verse rover, he is likely to be best remembered for his work on Dr Johnson and for his novels, especially Hurry On Down(1953).

The brilliant, austere Spanish poet JUAN GIL-ALBERT died in Valencia, the town of his birth, in July. He was 88. One of the few remaining literary veterans of the Republican cause, an innovator and radical in his poetics, he spent some of his exile in Mexico, where he collaborated with Octavio Paz on the journal Taller (he had already been active editorially on the Republican journals Hora de España and El Mono Azul), and then in Argentina where he was a friend of Borges.

He returned to internal exile, as he called it, in Spain, where he led a remarkably reclusive life, continuing to write and to develop the skills he learned among his illustrious contemporaries of the '27 Generation, Lorca, Cernuda and others.

NERMIN MENEMENCIOGLU, the doyenne of Turkish poetry, died at her London home on 11 April. She would have been 84 on 6 May (writes Audrey Nicholson). Nermin, the loved and respected great grand-daughter of Namik Kemal, the poet and patriot, edited the Penguin Book of Turkish Verse (1978), a comprehensive and beautiful book - alas, out of print. Her translations appeared widely and have been heard on the BBC. She unstintingly helped poets and translators of all ages, and she inspired many of us to share her dedication to Turkish literature - and poetry in particular.

JUAN CARLOS ONETTI, the great Uruguay-born Spanish novelist and storywriter, died in May at the age of 83. Described by Mario Vargas-Llosa as the 'founder of the new Latin American novel', he has yet to gain a wide readership in the English-speaking world.

After a major tour in Britain earlier this year to promote What Is Found There, Notebooks on Poetry and Politics, American poet ADRIENNE RICH has been awarded a MacArthur Fellowship (the 'genius grant'), worth, over five years, $374,000 or about £250,000.

The 6 TOWNS POETRY FESTIVAL 1994 takes place at Barracks Studio, 19 Barracks Square, Newcastle-under-Lyme, Staffs, between 21 and 23 October. Poets participating will include Les Murray, John Wilkinson, Meg Bateman, Maurice Scully and others, and in a celebration of Basil Bunting ('Descant on Rawthey's Madrigal'), poets including Tom Pickard, Stuart Montgomerie, Maggie O'Sullivan and Roy Fisher will 'fuse their own work to a reading from Bunting's work'. For further details ring 0782 638 775.

The first Secretary General of the late, perhaps to be lamented Arts Council of Great Britain was Mary Glasgow. The first Secretary General of the Arts Coundl of England, under Lord Gowrie's chairmanship, is Mary Allen, whose mission includes persuading the government to restore the £3.2 million cut last December, 'and reinstate it,' she says pluckily, 'with interest'. One positive challenge is to 'oversee the creation of the National Lottery distribution process'. She approaches the Arts Council of England essentially as a new initiative and is keen to 'be explicit in proving…accountability' to taxpayers and arts clients. Certainly her tactful forthrightness, taken with Lord Gowrie's commitment to literature, bode well for an institution in transition. The new, emphatic building-block logo (see the cover of this issue) replaces the familiar old paperclip. Other changes are expected.

The 1994 Geoffrey Faber Memorial Prize was awarded in May to JOHN BURNSIDE for his book of poems Feast Days (Secker). The sixteenth EZRA POUND International Conference will take place between 18 and 21 July 1995 at Brantôme, in Périgord, France. Further information is available from Philip Grover, Eyport, St Front-sûr-Nizonne, 24300 Nontron, France.

Nicolas Tredell writes: Remember what the movement did to Dylan Thomas? 'You should have stuck to spewing beer, not ink'? It looks as though the poet of spindrift pages is about to take revenge on British culture. A year-long Dylan Thomas retrospective is one of the three 'flagship projects' of the UK Year of Literature and Writing 1995, launched at a national press conference in March.

The presentation began with a recital from - what else? - Under Milk Wood, by an unknown gentleman who looked like a combination of Richard Burton and Norman Mailer; he followed this with 'Our Vision' - of Wales and the City of Swansea hosting 'the largest and most ambitious festival of literature that the world has ever known'. A flood of alliteration followed: 'technology and terror', 'communicator and comforter', 'pride and property', 'festivity and friendship', and to cap it all, 'the new challenge of cultural confluence'.

Then came endorsements from Lord Palumbo and others, and further exposition from the Director of the Year, Sean Doran. As well as the Thomas retrospective, he announced two other 'flagship projects': the establishment of Ty Llen, the National Literature Centre for Wales, which would be the first purpose-built literature centre in the UK; and the City of Literature Project, a display of the writing of the world, from the beginning to the present, which would extend over every street in Swansea and show 'the virtual reality of literature today'. Doran aimed to challenge 'the élitist image of literature held in some quarters', inviting journalists, screenwriters, songwriters, writers of all kinds. The 'event-led' festival would include, beyond Swansea and wales, collaborations with England, Scotland and Northern Ireland.

This Festival bids to be the most extensive example in the UK so far of the intercourse of marketing and literature. This is evident in its statement of Aims and Objectives, which include the encouragement of new writers, the revival of neglected literature, educational activities, a significant increase of tourist and visitor numbers in Swansea in 1995, and a tripling, at least, of private sector support for the arts in Swansea. The language of the presentation approximated what Richard Hoggart recently called 'unadulterated adman's jargon' and the packaging of the Festival so far is a slick example of how the arts are financed and promoted in a country in which the ethos of marketing saturates every area of culture. The 'UK Year of Literature and Writing 1995'is the fourth in a series of annual festivals, called Arts 2000, initiated by the Arts Council as 'the official cultural celebration to herald the new Millennium'. One may be allowed some scepticism as to how much there is to celebrate.

Now that the NEW GENERATION poetry promotion is history, it is possible to take soundings on its success. One participating publisher was 'budgeting for 75 % returns'. That may be too much, but it's best to be prudent.' The booksellers interviewed by PN Review were not encouraging in their appraisal of the impact on book buyers of this ambitious attempt to market verse. A number of poets omitted from the charmed twenty were sour for more than grapy reasons, and some of those who partidpated felt ambivalent about the value of the exerdse. One reflected: 'There were acres of feature coverage, but I saw almost no reviews during the promotion, just photos and hype, and after that a very loud silence. A bolt was shot, but was it worth shooting?'

Reviewing Aime Césaire's La Poésie in PNR 98, writes Roger Little from Dublin, I underlined the need for a glossary of his exceptional lexis. No sooner had the proofs been corrected and returned than there arrived on my desk a copy of Césaire's major poem Cahier d'un retour au pays natal edited with introduction, commentary and notes by Professor Abiola Irele, the Nigerian scholar now based at Ohio State University. It is published by New Horn Press, Ibadan, and distributed by African Books Collective, 27 Park End Street, Oxford OX1 1HU. It is intended for English-language students of the poem, 'noted as much for its formidable difficulty as for its rare power of poetic expression' and meets their needs for clarification towards a meaningful reading. The substantial introduction situates Césaire and his founding poem in a most helpful way, and the text itself is divided into stanzas on which explanatory notes give detailed information. Irele's significant contribution is unfussy and unpretentious, and I recommend the volume warmly.

Stephen Stuart-Smith of Enitharmon writes, 'It's a rare pleasure to see a review of an Enitharmon book in PN Review, so I do thank you and Roger Caldwell for giving space to Neil Curry's The Bending of the Bow in PNR 98. However, the euphoria was dispelled by seeing the book ascribed to Anvil Press!' The editor apologises for this error. The book, available from Enitharmon and priced at £7.95, was recommended by our reviewer Roger Caldwell: 'Here, with Curry's help, is a Homer who more succeeds in being our contemporary than all but a handful of our contemporaries do.'

Ankle Press, a Cambridge-based small press, has recently published the first in a projected series of anthologies of contemporary poetry in English and French. Billets de correspondance comprises five separate (and very handsome) books, each containing ten pages of English text, and ten of en face translation, by a single poet.

Each anthology, or set, of books is intended to constitute - or, more accurately, to contribute to - a dialogue between the poetries of these two languages, enabling poets more widely published in their native land to reach a different readership via the medium of translation.

The French poets in Billets de correspondance 1 are Jean Tortel, Pierre Alferi and Olivier Cadiot; the English, Tom Raworth and Matt Hodges. Cadiot and Alferi are younger writers currently working in Paris; Tortel;, who died last year at the age of 89, was the subject of great critical attention in the 1960s, although - incredibly - this is the first published translation of his work. Finally, prose poems by young poet Matt Hodges-although stylistically at variance - sit remarkably well alongside a new long poem by Tom Raworth, a prolific poet whose work will be familiar to most readers interested in more modernist and linguistically innovative poetries.

Billets de correspondance 2 will include books by Jacques Roubaud, Claude Royet-Joumoud, Miles Champion and Susan Gevirtz. Each set costs just £8.50. Ankle Press can be contacted at 153 Gwydir Street, Cambridge CB1 2LJ. (Alternatively, books can be ordered through most high street shops)

This item is taken from PN Review 99, Volume 21 Number 1, September - October 1994.



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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