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This review is taken from PN Review 187, Volume 35 Number 5, May - June 2009.

PLAYFUL OBLIQUITY LEE HARWOOD, Selected Poems (Shearsman) £9.95
LEE HARWOOD, Not the Full Story: six interviews by Kelvin Corcoran (Shearsman) £8.95
One thing that the publication of these books shows is that there are poets among us who, without being celebrated in official and large-scale media, have through their careers built up a substantial and reliable readership, and thus a commercial viability, so that however they may be dismissed by those who choose to, ‘unsuccessful’ is not the best term to use. Lee Harwood’s following now justifies publication of a selected poems four years after a 500-page collected, as well as a book of interviews, and there is also a collection of academic essays recently published by Salt Publishing.

This independent course is to be expected of a poet who takes nothing for granted and has never written with an eye on the market, but has adhered relentlessly to his own path. He discovered very early on, kick-started by Ashbery and Tzara, what he wanted do with poetry and developed it for ever after. We may use terms like ‘narrative dislocation’ and ‘collage sequences’, but it has basically been a matter of refusing to be distracted from what demands his attention, what he finds to be matter of true concern and perhaps above all what makes life worth living, though it is by no means merely a tracking of ‘pleasure’. This worth-while substance is accepted as evident on the surface of perception, to which language is a parallel surface capable of moving percepts between persons if they are not appropriated to the self by closure. But Harwood is also very ...

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