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This review is taken from PN Review 163, Volume 31 Number 5, May - June 2005.

SHORT NOTES CHRISTOPHER MIDDLETON, Palavers and A Nocturnal Journal (Shearsman) £9.95

Palavers is Middleton talking - a series of conversations with Marius Kokiejowski in 2002-3. He talks for 100 pages and covers all kinds of subjects, including a lot on his own poetical beliefs and development, but also a host of topics including prosody, inspiration, teaching, German and American poetry, God as metaphor, birdsong, form, Sidney, Mallarmé (a particularly interesting disquisition)... The list continues in A Nocturnal Journal, which is a rather earlier notebook from his European travels 1997-8, to include dream narrations, ideas for poems, scapes of various kinds (moralisés) , consumerism ('trivialises everything'), orality, aesthetics, memoirs of the 1940s, art and ideology, football, bottoms, the poverty of recent English poetry, and much more.

His talk is never less than interesting and is full of passionate conviction. To say that many of the passages about art and poetry are like after-notes to his 'Reflections on a Viking Prow' is only to indicate how engaging and thought-provoking they are, whether you agree with them or not. He is happy to throw his weight about, but contemporary authors are only named when they are being praised, which adds a nice kind of after-dinner congeniality among the cursing.

The self-portrait and history that emerges is of a poet fleeing in horror from English poetry of the 1950s ('flat ego-mumble'... 'the dark burden of English anguish') and setting all his sights elsewhere, principally on foreign poetry, as indeed he has ...


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