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This report is taken from PN Review 167, Volume 32 Number 3, January - February 2006.

Matthew Mead: A Note Peter Riley

He must be about 80 now. He might have been writing in the 1940s. But by the time his first book appeared in 1967, the central problem was already solved. He had located a sense of poetry for which he drew widely from Anglo-American writing, avoiding any programmes of allegiance. The epigrams include Eliot, Sidney Keyes, Michael Roberts, and Robert Creeley. Pound was obviously important, and the translations he made of Bobrowski in the 1960s must have made a big difference. He was not an experimentalist, and yet it is as if the 'Movement' had never existed.

There is a firm sense of poetry as an ecstasis, as the act of the raised, melodic voice, casting its phrases before the eyes as distinct reverberatory units, personal declarations or objets trouvés, forged by the constant interplay of intensity and fierce wit into substantially focused poems and sequences. It is remarkable how he could veer towards the scattered texture of a European Canto, or as easily indulge an epistolary poem in rhymed couplets, without ever losing his head, drawn back from the recruiting force of such options by his sense of purpose.

For the pre-solved problem was how to bring this personal art into relationship with a passionate socialist conviction, and this supplied the tension for most of the rest of his career. The problem was the answer, precisely the passionate belief which fed itself straight into his wide sense of ...


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