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This item is taken from PN Review 83, Volume 18 Number 3, January - February 1992.

News & Notes
Obituaries of Roy Fuller, who died in September at the age of 79, were fascinated by the Jekyll and Hyde existence of a poet with a prosaic day-job. Fuller's career as a solicitor with the Woolwich Building Society rendered him trustworthy to those running the arts in post-war Britain, bringing spells as a Governor of the BBC, chairman of the Arts Council Literature Panel and Professor of Poetry at Oxford. It also found its way directly into his writing, most notably in the semi-autobiographical novel Image of a Society (1956). More importantly, ten years before the Movement, Fuller's managerial stance provided him with an ironic rejoinder to the 'poetic' side of his nature. This distinguished him from Thomas and Barker, while early Fuller also maintained an integrity in the face of Auden - a more quietly romantic alternative to the romantic alternative. Hard for critics to place, poems drawing on wartime naval experiences temporarily pigeon-holed Fuller as a 'service poet', but as the polarizations of the 40's and 50's began to fade he felt free to extend his range - in the fluent historical monologues of Brutus's Orchard (1957) and sequences of Meredithian and Mythological Sonnets. There was a change of roles loo; Fuller increasingly adopted the fossilized persona of the 'old buffer', although this characteristically concealed a thorough knowledge of the contemporary scene. Through his son, the poet John Fuller, he was aquainted with writers of a later generation like James Fenton and Ian Hamilton. Fuller's last 20 years were his most productive, yielding novels, poems and four books of memoirs. Nerv and Collected Poems appeared in 1985, although three more distinguished collections proved that volume grandly undefinitive.

Natalia Ginzburg, among the most important of post-war Italian novelists, died in Rome in October. Born in Palermo in 1916 to a Jewish father - the prominent Triestino biologist Giuseppe Levi - and a Milanese Catholic mother, her family heritage was rich and complex. In 1919 the Levis moved to Turin where Giuseppe taught anatomy and became an outspoken opponent of Mussolini. Overlooked by her public-minded parents, Natalia Levi spent her youth filling notebooks with poems. Throughout her life she retained a sense of alienation from the adult world, many of her novels opening with evocations of a lonely girlhood. In 1934 she published her first short story in an anti-fascist periodical. Later that year its Russian-born editor Leone Ginzburg was imprisoned for his involvement in the Turin resistance, together with her father and Carlo Levi. On his release in 1936 Leone Ginzburg and Natalia Levi were married. Their union lasted for eight years. After a period of confinement in the small town of Abruzzi, Leone returned to Rome in the summer of 1943 to resume his political activities. The following November he was interred in Regina Coeli prison where he died from unspecified causes. This event lies at the heart of Ginzburg's most famous novel Lessico Famigliare (1963, 'Family Sayings'). The sayings of the title were a series of esoteric jokes and neologisms invented by the couple in an effort to reinforce familial bonds during the war years. The book was awarded the Strega Prize and has become a set text in Italian Schools. After the war Ginzburg worked as an editor in Einaudi's publishing house. By this time the dialogue of her novels had attained an almost Chekhovian self-sufficiency, as in Caro Michele (1973, 'Dear Michael') or La citta e la casa (1984, 'The City and the House'). With her remarkable historical novel La Famiglia Manzoni (1983, 'The Manzoni Family') Ginzburg relied almost exclusively on documentary sources. In her last years she continued to stress the primacy of the 'love of life' while producing unremittingly saturnine work. Her vocation, she once wrote, 'swallows the best and worst in our lives and our evil feelings flow in its blood just as much as our benevolent feelings. It feeds itself, and grows within us'. Many regard All Our Yesterdays as her greatest novel.

The Greek poet and song-writer Yannis Negrepondis died in September. Negrepondis was a pseudonym - Yannis Xynotroulias was born in Larissa in 1930 and studied archaeology and history at Athens University, later transferring to the School of Music and Drama. Negrepondis became famous in the 1960s with a series of outlandish satires on the colonels' regime, often appealing to a higher patriotism. His work was popularized in settings by composers like Mikis Theodorakis and Manos Loizos, and the singer Maria Farandouri who performed his song cycle Negrika. Negrepondis's best known collection of poetry, Guarding Thermopylae, was composed during a period of exile on the island of Leros in the early seventies.

Stanley Cook died on September 28 this year. He was one of our wisest, most intelligent and accessible poets. Born in South Yorkshire in 1922, he did not publish until the early seventies: reviewing his first Harry Chambers/ Peterloo book, Douglas Dunn remarked in Encounter, 'It calls the British publishing system in question that Stanley Cook failed for so long to find a commercial imprint'. Cook's work is inventive, clear-eyed and alive with insights that are always underwritten by accurate local detail. In the introduction to Form Photograph Cook said, 'I hope the steelworker and his wife next door would never need a dictionary to read my poems. I like to feel, too, that I have been as practical and unsentimental with a poem as if I had farmed, smithed or carpentered it - that the rest of the family would think I had done some "real work" and had not let them down.' Stanley Cook was an inspired and inspiring teacher. On retirement, he edited Poetry Nottingham for several years and initiated its pamphlet series. His poetry has been consistently undervalued, though he neyer appeared to mind about that. It would be wrong of me to be angry, now, on his behalf; so I will be angry on behalf of the large readership that would have appreciated his work. A small selected poems is available from Littlewood Press, and I like to think someone will do a collected edition in the near future.


Kathleen Coburn, who transformed Coleridge studies in the second half of the century, died in Toronto in September at the age of 86. She came to England in the 1920s, shortly before the appearance of John Livingstone Lowes's famous study The Road to Xanadu (1927). Lowes's presentation of a visionary genius lacking real intellectual fibre provided a catalyst for Coburn who was prepared to take Coleridge's psychological insights seriously. Over 40 years she developed a rigorous portrait of Coléridge as philosophical opponent of materialism, her books including Inquiring Spirit (1951), The Self-conscious Imagination (1974) and Experience into Thought (1979). As a scholarly detective she was responsible for tracing the whereabouts of Coleridge's notebooks, via several dark cupboards, to a collateral relative living in the poet's birthplace, Ottery St Mary in Devon - later supervising their sale to the British Library. Soon afterwards she had the idea of complementing the newly recovered material with a collected edition of the remaining work, to be researched with the same range and attention to detail. Although Kathleen Coburn did not live to see this project completed it remains a living memorial - like her hero she always stressed the primacy of the pursuit.

Kathleen Raine has declined the opportunity to become one of the Royal Society of Literature's ten Companions of Literature, complaining that most of her contemporaries are 'just interested in fame and money'. Among those unscrupulously joining the ranks of the rich and famous this autumn were Anthony Burgess, Muriel Spark and Patrick Leigh Fermor. Meanwhile, chairman John Mortimer was evasive about the prospect of bringing in Seamus Heaney as Raine's replacement. 'I'm not going to tell you if we will or will not' was generally thought to indicate that Heaney was being consulted in advance.

Norwegian Literature 1991 is currently being distributed worldwide. More diffident and less systematic than the rival quarterly Books from Finland, the supplement invites the reader to view an increasingly competitive and complex world from the periphery. Among many stimulating features are profiles of Finn Carling and Rolf Jacobsen, a tribute to the environmentalist Olaf Heitkotter, and an Ibsen essay competition. The editorial discloses ruefully that although Thor Heyerdahl's Kon-Tiki is now, after the Bible, the second most translated book in print, the initial responses of other European publishers were far from encouraging. One ran: 'The thought of men drifting on a raft has a certain appeal. But this is primarily a long, monotonous and dreary trip across the Pacific Ocean'.

Books from Finland grows more professional with every issue. The autumn number, complete with continental-style jacket flaps and the inevitable Frankfurt Supplement, features an editorial which, from a chance line in Brodsky - 'It is so quiet around that you can almost hear the clink of a spoon falling in Finland' - skilfully contrives to place Finland at the heart of Eastern Europe. Another charismatic example of cultural thrift occurs in Suvi Ahola's exploration of psychoses, sexual ambiguity and personal freedom in Tove Jansson's children's books. "'You mustn't think about the mud snakes," the whomper said, and so he thought of them, strong and clear, and they came creeping out of their holes at once, licking their moustaches.' (Tales from Moomin Valley, 1963.)

The Yale Review, at 80 the United States' oldest literary Quarterly, has received a welcome reprieve after the decision was made to terminate its publication in 1990. Yale University President Benno C. Schmidt Jr, sounding for all the world like a South American dictator, cagily described unspecified new sources of funding as 'a bridge for operations until outside sources of support can be developed'. Schmidt was more forthcoming about his new editor, the poet and critic J.D. McClatchy, who he said was 'uniquely qualified to sustain the Review's exemplary contributions to the world of letters and to expand its scope in exciting new ways'. The journal's pedigree is indeed impressive - in its heyday it was responsible for introducing readers to the work of, among others, Eudora Welty, Robert Frost and Robert Penn Warren. McClatchy, for his part, not unnaturally hailed the University's renewed commitment to the Review as 'both clear-sighted and noble'.

September saw the appearance of the handsomely produced Mediterraneans, 'a paperback review of new writing' designed to capitalize on the cultural fissions of Europe, the Middle East and North Africa. On the strength of the first issue 'new writing' means published and translated work from a number of distinguished but predictable sources; Durrell, Ritsos, Goytisolo, Lucia Graves. It's also possible to see the inclusion of several pieces in French - given the coffee-table format - as an appeal to style rather than cosmopolitanism. Nevertheless, the quality of the contributions is undeniable. Prospective readers are invited to say 'YES, I want to feel the pulse of the Mediterranean people' for only £22.00. All enquiries to: Didsbury Press, 7 Darley Avenue, Didsbury, Manchester M20 8XE.

News from Grenoble: Stendhal's birthplace, including the room where his mother died, is at last to be handed back to Stendhalians. For years the building in the rue J.-J.Rousseau was occupied (somewhat incongruously) by the Museum of the Resistance. The latter will now move to another part of town. (D.A.)

The organizers of the Ayrshire Writers' and Artists' Society have taken the perhaps ill-advised step of offering trophies rather than ready cash (save for £100 to the recipient of the MacDiarmid Trophy - a symbolic gesture for the 1992 centenary?) to the winners of the 1991 Scottish International Open Poetry Competition. Among the silverware changing hands will be the International Trophy and the Clement Wilson Trophy for the Scottish section. There is, however, no entry fee and work submitted may be in English or Scots. Entries and requests for further information should be sent to The Ayrshire Writers' and Artists' Society, 108 Overtoun Road, Springside, Irvine, Ayrshire KA11 3BW, Scotland.

Peterloo Poets have announced their 1992 Open Poetry Competition. Sponsored this year by Marks and Spencer, the £1,000 first prize winning poem will be published in an April 1992 issue of The Guardian. A special Afro-Caribbean or Asian Prize carries a £500 bounty. All work should reach the judges - Debjani Chatterjee, Dana Gioia, Michael Longley and Harry Chambers - by 1 February. For further details send an s.a.e. to the Administrator, Open Poetry Competition, Peterloo Poets, 2 Kelly Gardens, Calstock, Cornwall PL18 9SA.

Edinburgh University Press is to launch a new annual publication, Translation and Literature. It will 'publish articles, notes and reviews on literary translations of all kinds and periods, focusing on English literature in its foreign relations'. It is based on 'the principle that the European literary tradition amounts, in one of its aspects, to a continuous process of collaboration between the past and the present, and of negotiation across temporal and linguistic boundaries.' Members of the Advisory Board include Barbara Reynolds, George Steiner, Umberto Eco and Frank Kermode. Enquiries and contributions to Dr Stuart Gillespie, Dept of English, University of Glasgow, Glasgow G12 8QQ.

Fleur Adcock will adjudicate the 1992 Staple Open Poetry Competition. First prize is £250, plus £50 of Carcanet books and publication in P·N·R.

Twelve runners-up share a further £250, with an additional Carcanet book prize for a young writer. Results, text of winning poems, listing of 'best hundred' and a published selection (for which payment is made) will be in Staple Spring 1993. Copyright reverts to individual poets. Roger Elkin, Jonathan Davidson, Sylvia Bartlett, are previous winners.

Poems, unpublished, maximum 40 lines, must not previously have been awarded a cash prize in any competition. Subscribers to Staple (£6 for three 1992 issues) are entitled to half-price entry.

SAE for full rules and entry form to: Staple, 81 Cavendish Road, Matlock, Derbys DE4 3HD. Or manuscripts (which must not bear any form of identification) direct to Staple with name, address (age if under 20), and entry fee (£2 for first poem, £1 thereafter). Entering the competition involves acceptance of its conditions.

This item is taken from PN Review 83, Volume 18 Number 3, January - February 1992.

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