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This article is taken from PN Review 126, Volume 25 Number 4, March - April 1999.

Marred in a Way You Recognize James Keery

The heyday of the Cambridge School was in the mid-1970s, and Peter Robinson was in the thick of it. As co-editor of Perfect Bound, he featured most of the poets anthologised a decade later in A Various Art, and numerous other future Conference performers, including Michael Haslam, Thomas A. Clark and John Wilkinson. The first issue (1976) opens with 'The Land of St Martin', an enigmatic and beautiful sequence by J.H. Prynne, and carries his own enthusiastic pre-publication review of On the Periphery by Veronica Forrest-Thomson, who had died in 1975. Twenty years later, at mid-point in an intriguing career, Robinson is (in Wilkinson's maledictory understatement) 'a very different poet'. Wilkinson was alluding to a spat in the late 1970s, of which the published trace is Robinson's Many Press broadsheet, Going Out to Vote: 'My word, but you do go on.' Despite the one-way sign on the cover of Perfect Bound 1, Robinson came to resent the exclusiveness and 'antennae-of-the-race' presumption of his peers and in the 1980s became co-editor of a 'very different' Cambridgecentred magazine. Numbers insisted (justly) on its eclecticism but decidedly favoured the conservative Cambridge Wintersians (including Dick Davis, Robert Wells and co-editor Clive Wilmer) and Stanford formalists (including Edgar Bowers, Timothy Steele and Janet Lewis) over the poets of A Various Art. The distance between Robinson and (say) Wilkinson has steadily increased. It now seems reasonable to consider Robinson as the last scion of the Movement.

It's a progression fraught with ironies, reversing ...


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