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Readers are asked to send a note of any misprints or mistakes that they spot in this item to editor@pnreview.co.uk

This item is taken from PN Review 87, Volume 19 Number 1, September - October 1992.

News & Notes
The leading Greek poet Nikos Gatsos, also a song-writer and translator, died in Athens in May. He was 77. Gatsos was something like a national poet. His long poem Amorgos, published in 1943 during the occupation, remains one of the crucial works in modern Greek poetry. His surrealism is enhanced with a strong sense of popular poetry and traditional rhythms.

How very much I loved you only I know
I who once touched you with the eyes of
  the Pleiades …


He did not - like his greater elders and contemporaries - spend long years abroad but stayed in Greece, where he translated Lorca's plays (teaching himself Spanish for that specific purpose). His talent was like Lorca's in its marriage of folk and modernist elements; but unlike Lorca he was not - apart from Amorgos which he is reputed to have written in a single night - a fluent writer or a copious one. Yet it is hard not to value his work more highly than that of Elytis, with its grander pretensions, its padded monumentalism.

The Russian Pen Centre issued a statement and petition earlier this year alerting the world to 'a new kind of economic censorship which is threatening to paralyse the publishing industry in Russia and to destroy the literary journals which have nourished Russian life for two centuries' (Index Briefing Paper 387). 'State oppression of artists, writers and journalists has been replaced by their dependence on economic monopolies which have combined old administrative powers with the savage ways of the market place.' The 'heavyweight' journals are suspending publication because of low demand and paper costs. Also scholarly editions of Russian classics and middlebrow literature are affected. Writers are suffering deprivation and emigration looks inevitable. The petition demands immediate attention to this cultural crisis. One cannot help feeling it will not be high on the Kremlin agenda, what with the economic reforms and the major shortages throughout the economy. But it might consider removing VAT on books and magazines, and to give support in kind - office space, heating, electricity - to 'non-commercial publications' and publishers, until such time as a policy for the arts and literature emerges. Or will Russian publishing of new and radical work remain a task for the old exiles in Paris and America, and Russia become an importer of its own literature?

In June, the translator and literary journalist and biographer Edouard Roditi died in Paris. He was well placed to report on developments in Europe and America: French by birth, half American and half British by parentage, American by nationality. Educated at Oxford, he spent most of his life in France. He could speak and write eight languages. Part of Joyce's circle in Paris, he translated St John Perse. Breton expelled him from the Surrealist group on account of his homosexuality. He was a translator at the Nuremberg trials and later spent time in Tangiers with his friend Paul Bowles. A teacher at Bard College in the USA, a memoirist whose memoirs remain unpublished, and biographer of Oscar Wilde, it is sad that he accomplished no major original work.

John Ryan, editor of The Dublin Magazine (1970-1975), author and broadcaster, died in Dublin in May.

For £24,000, payable in three instalments over three years, CD-ROM-literate people can acquire The English Poetry Full-Text Database. Purchase entitles users to network the three copies provided so that whole English departments can have access to the material. It might seem a project long overdue, but naturally the provision of text for retrieval, especially early text material, is vexed with editorial decisions and pitfalls: each scholar will have a somewhat different expectation, while the general student user might like straightforward modernized texts. The issues raised are more controversial and finally unresolvable than those that confront lexicographers. Full details are available from Chadwyck-Healey Ltd, Cambridge Place, Cambridge CB2 1NR. Subscribers will also receive the English Poetry Full-Text Database Newsletter, with valuable brief articles on current scholarship. The May issue includes an essay by Professor Derek Brewer on the choice of early texts.

Readers of P·N·R will recall Mark Thompson's writings on William Empson. Thompson has now turned to the seven types of ambiguity, the structure of complex words and the versions of pastoral that lie behind the catastrophe of the Yugoslavian republics. A Paper House -The Ending of Yugoslavia (Hutchinson/Radius 1992, £17.99) is a personal and multi-faceted book: an account of travelling through the republics and regions; a series of conversations with artists, apologists, ex-dissidents and instant commentators; an analysis of political myths and histories. Nationalism and tribalism, separatists and federalists, messianic leaders like drunken geese in a fog, socialist self-management as a totalizing ideology, the Cold War and non-alignment: these are key constituent terms, but also there's the seminar on the Yugoslavian sub-text of the James Bond novels from the polymath editor of Mladina (Thompson is the magazine's London correspondent), complemented by interviews with the legends like Milovan Djilas and Dusan Makavejev.

Thompson describes Makavejev's WR: Mysteries of the Organism as sandwiching eight kinds of film, and Thompson's book is itself a 'mega-burger', presenting the culture of Yugoslav politics as well as the politics of its culture. This emerges as much through anecdote and singularities as from detached analysis. Indeed Thompson wouldn't seek a detachment: he's an engaged, enraged, saddened observer. He picks over his own values among the clash of values he watches. Nevertheless this book is about his subject, not himself as a de-centred subject. At one point he pictures himself as a science fiction traveller 'shrunk to the size of pollen dust and injected into a psychotic patient to observe the exploding synapses, fizzing ganglia and rogue chemical invasions'. By the time this issue of P-N'R is printed, there will probably have been real invasions or interventions, by the UN, US or Albania. Meanwhile - and afterwards - A Paper House is an illuminating account of how we got as far as this.

          (Michael Freeman)

The first issue of the new Canadian magazine Janus, edited by John Hudson, has reached us. It is an austere, wholesomely old-fashioned and meticulous production, consisting - like the early issues of Poetry Durham - entirely of poetry and including work by some remarkable (and neglected) Canadian writers, notably Norm Sibum and Marius Kociejowski, as well as fine work by Thomas Kinsella, C.H. Sisson and others. The second issue 'will consist of literary criticism of the poems in the first issue', and the editor invites readers to respond. Issues cost £3.00 and can be obtained from New Jerusalem Books, PO Box 3346, Vancouver, BC, V6G 3Y3, Canada.

The latest issue of Agenda (advertised in this issue of P·N·R) is invaluable, appraising the work of Geoffrey Hill on the occasion of his 60th birthday. As usual in Agenda special issues, the range and quality of submissions is broad and suggestive, and the new poems by Hill quite remarkable. Agenda remains one of the few necessary literary journals being published in the UK at present.

John Ashbery has won two further major awards: the Ruth Lilly Poetry Prize was presented in Chicago on 5 June, and the Italian Feltrinelli Award, reputedly worth 250 million lira, will be presented to him later this year. Bill Manhire received his second New Zealand Book Award for Poetry for his new collection Milky Way Bar. Another New Zealander, Allen Curnow, received a Cholmondeley Award for Poets, as did Donald Davie and Carol Ann Duffy. Gerard Woodward received a Somerset Maugham Award for his book Householder and Eric Gregory Awards were presented to Jill Dawson, Hugh Dunkerley, Christopher Greenhalgh, Marita Maddah, Stuart Paterson and Stuart Pickford.

The British Comparative Literature Association announces its Translation Competition for 1992-3. Prizes will be awarded for the best literary translation from any language into English. Literary translation includes poetry, fiction or literary prose from any period. Special prizes will be awarded for translations from Chinese, and from Hebrew or Yiddish (or another language) on a Jewish theme. The deadline for entries is 15 December 1992. Further details and entry form are available from Dr N.J. Crowe, St John's College, Oxford OX1 3JP. This year's awards, just announced, include John Felstiner for his versions of Neruda (first prize), Lisa Sapinkopf of Cambridge, Massachusetts, for her Bonnefoy (second prize) and various commendations and special prizes.

Maura Dooley, Simon Rae and Michael Longley will judge this year's Poetry Society National Poetry Competition, the deadline for which is 10 November 1992. Details from National Poetry Competition, Poetry Society, 22 Betterton Street, London WC2H 9BU. The entry fee is £4.00 for the first poem and £3.00 for each subsequent poem. Is this inflation?

The Poetry Business (51 Byram Arcade, Westgate, Huddersfield HD1 1ND), publishers of the magazine North and of Smith/Doorstep Books and Cassettes, is for the sixth time sponsoring its unusual competition for a small collection of poems. The entry fee is £10.00 but the winners - who have in the past included Mimi Khalvati, Adele Geras, David Morley and Pauline Stainer - will see their work between covers by the summer of 1993. The judge this year is Simon Armitage.

The Wells Festival of Literature is sponsoring a poetry prize, with a 30 September deadline. Details are available from Wells Festival Poetry Competition, 5 Market Place, Wells, Somerset.

Dr John Light of Photon Press has published his updated Lights List of Literary Magazines for readers and writers. Over 200 UK small press magazines of prose, poetry and art are listed, for 50p plus an A5 s.a.e. from John Light, The Light House, 29 Longfield Road, Tring, Herts HP23 4DG.

This item is taken from PN Review 87, Volume 19 Number 1, September - October 1992.



Readers are asked to send a note of any misprints or mistakes that they spot in this item to editor@pnreview.co.uk
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