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This item is taken from PN Review 124, Volume 25 Number 2, November - December 1998.

News & Notes
As PN Review 124 was going to press, the death of one of the best-loved Scottish poets IAIN CRICHTON SMITH was announced. Smith, whose new book The Leaf and the Marble, a remarkable series of love poems (in love with history and the Mediterranean as with his human beloved) was published in October, has left at least two further volumes for publication and, overall, a body of work (verse and prose) in English and Gaelic without parallel among his contemporaries.

One of the definitive Polish poets of the century, ZBIGNIEW HERBERT, has died. His work will be celebrated in an essay by Nicole Krauss in the next issue of PN Review.

The Creole-language poet and playwright FELIX MORISSEAU-LEROY, born in Haiti in 1912, died in Florida in September. He survived in exile, first imposed and then selfimposed, to become a popular hero in Haiti, one of the first to elevate Creole to specifically literary usage. When in 1991 Jean-Bertrand Aristide declared Creole an official language of Haiti, Morisseau-Leroy's work and example were in part responsible, and he was a guest of honour at the ceremony. Writing in the Independent, Nick Caistor reports that 'it was in 1953 with his production of the classical Greek tragedy Antigone in his own Creole version that Morisseau-Leroy really made his mark. The play was set in a rural Haitian village, with King Creon portrayed as a powerful voodoo priest. This was the first time that many Haitians realised that their oral language was capable of nuance, analysis and profundity.' One is put in mind of Omeros: perhaps Derek Walcott too owes him a debt.

The Welsh poet HORACE CHARLES JONES, known more as a local character in Merthyr Tydfil than as a voice of modern Wales, has died at the age of 92. In the Guardian one of his aphorisms was quoted: 'Any fool can write poetry but it takes a genius to get it published.'

The American teacher, critic, poet and Editor DONALD ELWIN STANFORD has died at the age of 85. A student of Yvor Winters's at Stanford University, he was for many years Professor of English at the Louisiana State University, Baton Rouge, where he taught from 1949, and from where he edited the Southern Review. His first book appeared in 1941 and he memorably edited the poems of Edward Taylor, later making selections of Robert Bridges and John Masefield and editing poets' correspondence. He was a godfather to the New Formalists.

The Beat poet who has kept alive and smiling longer than the others, LAWRENCE FERLINGHETTI, also an important bookseller and publisher, has been created the first Poet Laureate of San Francisco. Ferlinghetti has kept his distance from politics and politicians for the first 79 years of his life and it is a little surprising that he has accepted the honour, but he apparently trusts the Democrat mayor Willie Brown. 'I see my present role as a gadfly,' he said, standing beside the Mayor at his investiture. He will use his position as 'a soapbox to promote my various ideas and obsessions'.

Another surprise: the Collected Poems of the guru of Caius J.H.PRYNNE, tutelary chief of the Cambridge Poets, will appear from Bloodaxe, alongside work by Joolz, Benjamin Zephaniah and other poets with edges. The new Bloodaxe catalogue is full of interest and available from Bloodaxe/Pandon Press Ltd, Penllyn Workshops, Plassey Street, Bala, Gwynedd LL23 7SW.

In Budapest this September CLIVE WILMER was awarded the Hungarian PEN Club's Memorial medal for Translation for his work (done in collaboration with George Gömöri) on Miklós Radnóti, György Petri, George Gömöri and miscellaneous translations included in the Gömöri/Szirtes anthology The Colonnade of Teeth.

The rebirth of the American magazine Illuminations (Department of English, College of Charleston, 66 George Street, Charleston, SC 29424-0001), under the editorship of Simon Lewis, is welcome. The most recent issue is devoted to writing from South and southern Africa and includes remarkable work by established and new writers. It includes a valuable interview with Athol Fugard and provides a window on cultures in which political change has removed a crucial rhetorical dialectic. The creative imagination in southern Africa is adjusting to changes as decisive as those in Eastern Europe, and almost in the dark since the spotlights of journalistic and ideological interest have bent their beams elsewhere.

The BBC and a number of newspapers reported that the Scottish Esperanto poet WILLIAM AULD (born in 1924) was being nominated for the 1999 Nobel prize for Literature. Auld is an essayist and translator as well as a poet. If the news is true (all talk of 'nominations' for the Nobel prize are a little suspect) it implies that Esperanto, recently accepted by PEN International as a 'literary language', has come of age. It has a fifth as many speakers as Nahuatl in its several dialects, but those speakers (estimated at one million) are spread throughout the world.

On National Poetry Day Eve, the Forward Poetry Prize was awarded to Ted Hughes for Birthday Letters (£10,000). Paul Farley won the Best First Collection category for The Boy from the Chemist is Here to See You (£5,000) and Sheenagh Pugh the Best Single Poem category for 'Envying Owen Beattie' taken from New Welsh Review (£1,000). National Poetry Day itself was less vigorous than in previous years: the theme of Comic Poetry proved a dumbing-down too far for some writers and readers who participated in earlier years and many events were undersubscribed.

In September DANNIE ABSE celebrated his seventy-fifth birthday with the publication of Arcadia, One Mile. There is much to celebrate: he has been with his publisher Hutchinson for fifty years; he has contributed poetry, fiction, dramatic and editorial work. He is a secular Jew, a medical doctor and a Welshman, a suggestive combination of sobriquets; he has travelled widely, been much laurelled as a poet. Engaging performer as well as writer, his presence in the stormy poetry world has been unusually benign. In his new book the poem about Thomas Girtin's 'The White House' is especially resonant, combining every register of his humane concern with an effortless precision, especially in stanzas four and five.

THE GREVILLE PRESS is engaged in a number of novel projects. We invited Anthony Astbury to report on Greville's programme and plans. He writes: The Press is launching a new series of poetry pamphlets which are different from the 50-odd titles which have gone before. The principle of Greville Press remains the same: to offer readers a taste of works which can then be experienced more fully through bigger publishers; this time, though, the carrot to readers is different.

Poetry pamphlets are, by definition, super selections of poems: choice is more than usually everything. Who chooses? Mostly the publisher, or the publisher via an academic, a critic, another poet. Until now, that is. The Greville Press has hit on a unique scheme of things which, in my opinion, gives an extra dimension to the quality and authenticity of our poetry selections.

Thus, the opening publication is a selection of W.S. Graham's poems chosen by his widow, Nessie. This is to be followed by a selection of George Barker by his widow, Elspeth. Valerie Eliot has agreed to provide a selection of her husband's work, and although David Gascoyne is thoroughly alive, Judy is to make a selection of his poems. The list goes on: Nora Sisson is to choose from the work of her husband, Charles; and extending the formula, Julia Blackburn is to select a volume of her father, Thomas's, poems; Vivian Ridler will select from his wife Anne's work. Several other projects are under discussion.

My view is that those who have intimately shared the life of a poet are better placed than most to make a decent and, more likely, an important selection of his or her work. I think all of us would be very grateful today for a selection of William Blake made by his wife - regardless of selections made by 'experts'.

Naturally all poetry publishers need the gods to be on their side, especially for a new venture; and the Greville Press is no exception. Fortunately, this new enterprise will be watched over by no less than four of the nine Muses: Erato (love poetry), Calliope (epic poetry), Euterpe (lyric poetry) and Thalia (light verse). With such powerful potential backing for what I think is a good idea, I am hopeful. (Details of the forward programme and of an exceptionally interesting back list can be obtained from The Greville Press, Emscote Lawn, Warwick.)

This item is taken from PN Review 124, Volume 25 Number 2, November - December 1998.

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