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

Shelf Lives: 4: Patric Dickinson Peter Scupham

'Poeta nascitur non fit'.
But that's not quite the end of it.
Vivit, scribit, mortuus est.
In tempus he is laid to rest.
Suppose he should arise and live
Surprisingly infinitive?

It began in 1976. John Mole gave Patric Dickinson's collection The Bearing Beast an enthusiastic review in the TLS when there were still two more volumes of his poems to come in Chatto/Hogarth's Phoenix Living Poets series: Our Living John, in 1979, and then his last mainstream publication, A Rift in Time, in 1982. From Patric's letter of appreciation for John's review grew cautious acquaintance ripening into a working friendship which I think of as one of the great good things that running the Mandeville Press as a letterpress cottage-industry brought about for John, myself - and Patric. This triple collaboration resulted in four pamphlet collections, produced between 1980 and 1991 as Patric moved through his sixties and seventies: Winter Hostages, To Go Hidden, A Sun Dog and Not Hereafter. As I spread them out on the table and respond to the poems themselves, a response ghosted by long evenings of rhythmic clanking from the press, the smell of pipe-smoke and the gravelly crunch of type being distributed, I realise my half-nostalgia mists a deep respect and affection for these autumnal poems - brief, puzzled, and puzzling, always intensely felt, always quoted in their entirety in this article:

Autumn

'Ripeness is all' our Master wrote ...


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