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This article is taken from PN Review 93, Volume 20 Number 1, September - October 1993.

The Bloodsoaked Royston Perimeter James Keery

Never mind the poetry for the moment - let's begin with the review heading, which I offer also as a 'found' item in its own right. Heterogeneous ideas yoked by violence together make manifest the persistence into the 1990s of the romantic/modernist avant garde. Paladins and ghosts haunt the streets and corridors, neologisms jostle archaisms, paradox gives way to pastoral, concrete typography and conscious innovation rub shoulders with academic consolidation and names redolent of the Maurrasian right confront an unrepentant Marxist rump. Any appearance of chaos, however, or even of miscellaneousness, would be deceptive. I recall an elegant proof by one of its number that the Movement was avant garde - 'The avant garde is whatever is happening now; we're happening now; therefore we're avant garde' -but in a slightly different spirit I would argue that the poets under review are in the mainstream of twentieth-century English poetry, the clear channel flowing through a flooded riverscape.

If a single trope were to hold the key to the poetical histories of the 1970S and 1980s it might well be the Bloodsoaked Royston Perimeter. Just as Larkin's rail journey, 'a slow and stopping curve southwards', functions as synecdoche for the English landscape of the 1960s, so the Royston Perimeter, the archetypal Expressway around the archetypal New Town, with systems of colour-coded signs to identical estates and daffodil verges half a furlong wide, quartered not only by kestrels but by herons and harriers, invokes a more recent urban pastoral. Yet ...


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