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This article is taken from Poetry Nation 6 Number 6, 1976.

The Politics of an English Poet Donald Davie


ONE REASON for thinking that C.H. Sisson is a very powerful presence in present-day English poetry - though not the most accomplished, let alone the most actually or potentially influential - is that he alone among his peers has a politics. A politics, I mean, on a par with, and indeed related to, a poetics; in other words, something much more substantial and respectable than the class-determined or vocationally determined prejudices which pass muster as the politics of the rest of us. At the end of his essay on 'The Politics of Wyndham Lewis' (Agenda, VIII, 1, Autumn-Winter 1969-70, p. 116), Sisson speculates: 'If he had re-written his political writings at the end, Lewis would, I think, have escaped from Manicheeism and from the indifference to the affairs of power which lay so uneasily upon him. He would have been driven from a politics designed to defend "the intellectual" (that abstraction of liberal democracy) to one of profounder attachments.'

Profounder attachments. . . . There are of course those who think that an allegiance to 'class', in particular to the labouring and exploited poor, is an attachment more profound than any allegiance to 'the free spirit of enquiry' or 'the free play of mind'. But the whole drift of Sisson's writings proves that this is the last thing he has in mind. And in fact nothing so vindicates one's sense that Sisson - despite the relative slenderness of his poetry to date - is one in ...


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