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This item is taken from PN Review 117, Volume 24 Number 1, September - October 1997.

News & Notes
The American poet ADRIENNE RICH, angry that 'democracy in this country has been in decline', herself declined to accept the National Medal for the Arts for 1997. On 3 July she wrote with her refusal to the White House. 'I'm not against government in general, but I am against a government where so much power is concentrated in so few hands,' she said in an interview. 'I simply felt I can not be used in this way.' Art, she said, 'means nothing if it simply decorates the dinner-table of power which holds it hostage.' Adrienne Rich is the first artist to decline the award.

DAME MURIEL SPARK received the 1997 David Cohen British Literature Prize of £30,000, with an additional £10,000 at the writer's disposal to provide her own patronage. Dame Muriel asked that the money be given to her old school James Gillespie's High School, Edinburgh, the setting for Miss Jean Brody's legendary pedagogic exploits. Previous prize-winners include V.S. Naipaul and Harold Pinter.

The Scottish writer NAOMI MITCHISON will be 100 in November. Her remarkable novels and stories follow in a developing and always distinctive style her growth with and against the trends of the century.

Iraqi poet MOHAMMED AL JA WAHIRI died in exile in Damascus in July at the age of 98. Regarded as one of the outstanding Arablanguage poets of all time, descendant of a family of writers, passionate and controversial, like MacDiarmid he enjoyed a vexed relationship with the radical and established orders of his times. Two years ago Saddam Hussein's government stripped him of Iraqi citizenship.

The Welsh poet and novelist RHYDWEN WILLIAMS died in August, just short of his 81st birthday. Always satirical about the conservative ethos of Eisteddfod culture, he came to prominence by way of that institution where he won the Crown in 1946 with his poem 'Yr Arloeswr' ('The Pioneer'). He won it again 18 years later. He published nine volumes of verse, including one in English, and a Collected Poems in 1991. A Baptist minister deeply aware of his Rhondda Valley landscapes and community, his career led to television outside Wales. He was also a distinguished novelist in Welsh. (Meic Stephens's obituary appeared in the Independent, 7 August.)

The American poet ERNEST SANDEEN has died at the age of 88. He was the author of six volumes of poetry, Antennas of Silence, Children and Older Strangers, Like Any Road Anywhere, Collected Poems, A Later Day, Another Year and Can These Bones Live? Also active as a scholar and critic, Sandeen taught English at the University of Notre Dame. In a foreword to his last book, Robert Pinsky wrote: 'the poems of Ernest Sandeen record not only a writing life but a life in writing: a history of the hours when reflection turns to discovery, and observation finds its fulfilment in the rhythms of a sentence, the weaving of consonants through a line, in pursuit of a mystery. Few poets have been blessed with the gift to sustain that process of meditation, composing and questioning so consistently, and for so long, in works that are clear and clear-eyed, passionate and precise.'

The Finland-Swedish poet and novelist BO CARPELAN received the Nordic Literary Prize in March, one of the most important awards in Scandinavia.

In June the Portuguese poet AL BERTO (Alberto Raposo Pidwell Tavares) died in Paris. Awarded the Portuguese Pen Club's prize for poetry in 1988, he was a shy and self-effacing writer whose work seems to breathe from an earlier fin de siècle. James Kirkup's obituary in the Independent (10 July) is a fitting tribute.

Penguin has put MARCEL PROUST on-line. He can be accessed - as can 'Proustians from around the World' - on

To mark the centenary of BERTOLT BRECHT's birth on 10 February 1998, Suhrkamp Verlag of Frankfurt publish his Ausgewählte Werke in six substantial volumes, to include plays, poems, prosewritings and letters. Supporting these titles will be compendious new and revised patristics: chronologies, essays, memoirs, selections. The reverential tone of the blurbs is unironic: 'On 10 February 1898 in the Bavarian-Swabian town of Augsburg a child was born.' Kurt Weill could have composed a new Messiah out of such pieties.

Sour - if rather artificial - controversy surrounded the award to a 26-year-old writer of a £1.1 million recording contract with EMI and a £250,000 contract with MTV. An 'unpublished poet', Murray Lachlan Young was highly praised by Auberon Waugh in his indefatigable quest to re-establish the tum-te-tum school of verse via the Literary Review. Those opposed to Mr Young included Michael Horowitz who spoke from hearsay: 'His work sucks. It's not poetry. Someone I know saw him performing and said he makes people laugh.' Horowitz is an expert in what is not poetry. Waugh also quotes Peter Thorpes (sic), editor of Poetry Review: 'my instinct is to disapprove of the whole thing.' It is hard to know whether to celebrate with Mr Waugh or gnash teeth with Horowitz and Thorpes: the work is not available to be read.

At the SOUTH BANK CENTRE, Royal Festival Hall, London, the autumn events programme includes, at the Voice Box:
16 September: Andrew Crozier and Carl Rakosi
15 October: Les Murray
23 October: Julia Copus and Vona Groarke
27 November: Patricia Beer

At the Queen Elizabeth Hall:
6 October: Gore Vidal with Chris Bigsby
10 December: Paul Durcan
17 December: Camille Paglia with Bea Campbell

And at the Purcell Room:
11 October: Sophie Hannah, Ian McMillan and Benjamin Park

Further information: South Bank Centre, Royal Festival Hall, London SE1 8XX.

The SIX TOWNS POETRY FESTIVAL announces its main events for 31 October to 2 November, 'Dogs & Wolves', in memory of Sorley MacLean. Readers include Hamish Henderson, Tom Leonard, Denise Riley, Michael Haslam, Alice Notley and Tom Raworth. Further information from Nicholas Johnson, 16 Barracks Square, Newcastle-under-Lyme, North Staffordshire ST5 1LG.

This item is taken from PN Review 117, Volume 24 Number 1, September - October 1997.

Readers are asked to send a note of any misprints or mistakes that they spot in this item to
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