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

From Mauberley to Middagh Street: Ways of Meeting the British John Matthias

For a long time we needed a successor poem to Hugh Selwyn Mauberley - something by a British or Irish poet that would reverse the direction of E.P.s immigration and place a Brit or an Irishman in a cultural context as weirdly American as Mauberley's was weirdly British. The poem needed to be written by someone who delighted in the comedy of cultural collision, who was a prosodic virtuoso, and who wanted to probe the signif-icance of what Stephen Spender thirty years ago called 'immigration in reverse,' immigration initiated by Auden and Isherwood that ended the age of American literary exile in Britain or Europe - that of a James, an Eliot, a Pound. Such a poem would need a cast of characters as interesting and repre-sentative as the figures who people Mauberley, a concern with the disorienting and conditioning effects of World War, a preoc- cupation with the function of art, and a traditional form stretched to the breaking point analogous to the Mauberley quatrain, a stanza very rarely imitated but, as Spender noted, 'having a catchiness which makes one wonder it has not been exploited like the limerick or clerihew: It was in the middle of tryirig to read Paul Muldoon's Madoc, that ambitious book-length sequence treating the apocryphal journey of Southey and Coleridge to the banks of the Susquehanna to found their Pantisocracy that I remembered 7 Middagh Street from Meeting the British. If Madoc, for all its fun and games, is as demanding and confusing ...

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