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This article is taken from PN Review 90, Volume 19 Number 4, March - April 1993.

A Pasquil on the Poetry Scene Christopher Middleton

INVITED TO SPEAK about poetry for half an hour in Southport in 1940, F.S. Flint argued that it was distinct from 'hurdy-gurdy verse' and that, rare and indefinable as it might be, poetry had three essential features: new language, new rhythm and new vision.1 He conceded that these features seldom appeared in perfect fusion. Incidentally, Flint also said that his statement was a personal one; as an evacuee in Southport he had no books, but he did cite Latin, French, Italian and English sources. Earlier in the century associated with Imagism, Flint had been, before and immediately after the war, the foremost English connoisseur of the new French poetry. His essays helped to procure the nova which revolutionized poetry in English around that devastating time. His third and last book of poems had appeared in 1920, but his down-to-earth views of 1940 were informed and incisive. Have his arguments of just before the mid-century been lost sight of as the century comes to a close? If by 'new' he meant 'fresh', what signs are there of fresh language, rhythm and vision in current English poetry? There have been the last poems of W.S. Graham; recent work by Michael Longley, John Welch, John Ash and Marius Kociejowski calls for special attention, I think, Alison Brackenbury's poem '1829' likewise (P·N·R 73). Yet I want to risk sketching a not entirely hypothetical scenario which questions certain negative signs. I do so with more than usual caution, because I'm not familiar with all ...


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