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This report is taken from PN Review 97, Volume 20 Number 5, May - June 1994.

Validating the Ticket Lawrence Sail

Recent issues of PNR1 have sustained, from a variety of angles, an absorbing debate about the nature and place of poetry today. Much of the argument has anticipated or followed the publication of the anthology The New Poetry2 with its combative introduction. In announcing that 'the new poetry highlights the beginning of the end of British poetry's tribal divisions and isolation', with the resultant 'need to find alternatives to the real or imagined English centre', in their perception of an escape for political poetry from 'the constraints of Romantic first-person lyricism' and their declaration that'a multicultural society… produces pluralism of poetic voice', the editors strike a tone reminiscent of the kind of manifesto which the Futurists enjoyed issuing. Every manifesto identifies goats as well as sheep, and seeks to establish a new context in which ali writing is to be judged. Makers of manifestos are not much interested in transactions or negotiations: sensing that their moment has come, they want to take history by the lapels and shake it excitedly into submission. This is not a matter of adverse criticism, but definition, though it may also be a reminder that manifestos date as SWiftly as the newness they predicate. In any case, PNR is surely at least half right in asserting that 'the editors are identifying not a movement, a literary trend, but a political verity'.3 But only half right, because though it may be true that the anthology 'fails… to take account of whole areas of our ...

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