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This article is taken from PN Review 177, Volume 34 Number 1, September - October 2007.

The Woden Dog Fan Club Presents: Christopher Middleton Peter McCarey

False starts, and more than one - but that's ambition: to beat the sound of the starting pistol. 'It is ... the task of moving minds, by weaving tissues of linguistic sound, toward a restitution of the lost flesh of God, at least toward a remembering of his forgotten flesh'.1 High church gives way to high modernism (rather as Hugh MacDiarmid's Knox on the head resulted in Marx on the head); 'ambition' doesn't quite catch it: Dante was more modest in his aims. Does Middleton reach his goal? I wouldn't know, though I see how the ultimate hopes aroused and disappointed by religion can be carried into the realm of art by the refugee.

And here is the second difficulty in Middleton: he wrenches tradition almost out of its socket. Is he an English poet? Yes, but with a German graft (though he assures me his Anatolian connection has nothing to do with the Baghdad to Berlin railway). Here already I am out on a limb, because I don't know German. Worse: since I'd always reckoned I'd get around to learning the language one day, I haven't even read much German literature in translation. But I'm going ahead because there is a danger that the critical hush around Middleton's work will further deepen: the nearest we have to a study of his work is a festschrift in the Chicago Review,2 and even that talks too much about one essay and one poem. Besides, ...


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