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This article is taken from Poetry Nation 5 Number 5, 1975.

Some Aspects of the Poetry of Roy Fisher J.D. Needham


DONALD DAVIE devotes a chapter of his book Thomas Hardy and British Poetry to the work of Roy Fisher and clearly rates it very highly. I would like to register my own modest agreement with Professor Davie's estimate; I am, however, out of sympathy with some features of his approach. Though by no means claiming that Fisher is an overtly political poet, Professor Davie looks at his poetry from a political point of view, seeing in it an implicit rejection of ideology, of the right or left, and an endorsement, despite reservations, of the attitudes that inform democracy on the current British model. The discussion, as one would of course expect from Professor Davie, is extremely interesting, but I think that the emphasis is misleading. In my view, 'philosophical', in the broad sense in which, for example, Coleridge fairly used it of Wordsworth, is a more useful word than 'political' for thinking about Fisher's poetry. The reference to Wordsworth comes to mind (though it obviously shouldn't be taken too far) because Fisher, through all his major sequences of poems, is concerned with the pitfalls of distortion, reductiveness and detachment that face the organising impulse in its attempts to shape the immediate elements of feeling and perception. What follows is an account of Fisher's developing interest in this theme. For the poetry up to 1968 I rely on Collected Poems: the Ghost of a Paper Bag, and for the poetry subsequent to that I refer to Matrix and The ...


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