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Readers are asked to send a note of any misprints or mistakes that they spot in this item to editor@pnreview.co.uk

This item is taken from PN Review 61, Volume 14 Number 5, May - June 1988.

News & Notes
The Canadian poet Gwendolyn MacEwen died 30th November in Toronto, of causes not yet disclosed. Born in Toronto in 1941, Gwendolyn MacEwen spent most of her life there, though she also travelled, particularly in Israel, Egypt and Greece. Her first book of poems was published in 1961, and in 1969 The Shadow Maker brought her the Governor-General's Award. In addition to poetry she wrote fiction, travel books and plays, and translated the Greek poet Yannis Ritsos. An engaging, generous personality and exciting reader, Gwendolyn MacEwen was one of the most attractive figures in contemporary Canadian poetry. M.H.

Terence Tiller, who died on Christmas Eve aged 72, was one of the brilliant team that founded the Third Programme. From lecturing in Egypt, he came to the BBC with two volumes of verse published and began the radio presentation of his own modernized version of Piers Ploughman, Chaucer, Gower, the Roman de la Rose and much else. He knew how to get perfect readings from actors who, at rehearsal, often failed to understand the text, and all this without producer's histrionics, merely by calm explanation and ironic asides. He also compiled many programmes of contemporary verse, for which he had little sympathy: 'These are not poems but notes for poems'. His own poetry is tightly constructed. He used traditional metres and forms such as villanelles in fresh ways and treated old myths in a new. Love, jealousy and the complexities of vision are his habitual themes. If there is one predominant influence it is Rilke's.

My recollections of sporadic collaborations and friendship with Terence are of conversations in the BBC club, ranging over the literature of many ages and languages, over metaphysic and mysticism, straying to such private preserves as the dead Cornish language - he was Cornish born - from which he had translated some Miracle plays. But his chief interest was in the writing of poetry. About all else he was an understanding sceptic. He saw the mind, 'the inward animal', as no more reliable than the senses. Towards the end he abandoned poetry. In the last of his six volumes - all out-of-print - his inspiration was failing. Attempts by his friends to find a publisher for a Selected volume failed last year. His BBC programmes are sometimes repeated but, as he always knew, it is by his poetry that he will eventually be remembered.
J.M. COHEN

The news of Raymond Williams's death came as a saddening surprise. His texts remain a serious call to thought and responsibility. In East Sussex, where he worked as an adult education tutor throughout the 1950s, he is still recalled with affection and respect by older students whom I meet in my own teaching today, and no-one concerned with the complex relations between literature, culture and society can afford to ignore his achievement. In a future issue of PNR, I shall attempt a provisional assessment of his work.
NICOLAS TREDELL

Marghanita Laski had become a regular visitor to our Manchester office. As well as writing her review series for PNR, she was working on a social history of Manchester for Weidenfeld and an anthology of popular poetry, Common Ground, for Carcanet. She had firm views about defining this common ground, and her final instructions were telephoned from hospital. Her selection of poems matched the clear and radical claims she made for, and demanded of, literature in our day. We had planned to spend a summer holiday, pretending to edit PNR, at Marghanita's home in Burgundy. Summer will be duller since her death, and English letters and broadcasting will be poorer.
M.F.

The last prominent figure of Belgian surrealism, poet Louis Scutenaire died in Brussels 15 August 1987. He was 82. An expert in wry humour, he produced several volumes of "Inscriptions". These were poetical scrapbooks of aphorisms, poems and stray thoughts all revealing a constant if exasperated craving for intellectual and moral freedom. Ironically, he died while watching a film about his old friend René Magritte. F.J.

The Prix Goncourt for 1987 went to the Moroccan novelist Tahar Ben Jelloun, for his latest work La nuit sacrée (Seuil). This is the prolific Ben Jelloun's seventh novel, and it had apparently sold 50,000 copies before the PG jury announced their verdict in mid-November.

Not that their decision - according to Patrick Marnham of the Independent - came as a surprise: 'Tahar Ben Jelloun became the favourite as soon as the shortlist was published for the simple reason that he is published by Seuil. Last year's winner was elected by an alliance of judges representing the houses of Grasset and Seuil, and they chose a book published by Grasset. It was therefore logical to suppose that this year it would be the turn of Seuil - and so it was.'

It is good that a Maghreb writer has been accorded this honour, though Ben Jelloun was certainly the safest choice among the various fine Francophone novelists from North Africa; for his work tends to be free of the post-colonial bitterness which marks this literature so strongly. His work represents rather a rapprochement - linguistically, culturally, formally too - with the old imperial centre, where he now lives and works as a journalist on Le monde. English readers may soon have the chance to see for themselves, as his penultimate novel, L'enfant de sable, has been translated and recently published in the USA. M.T.

On December 3rd, the Poetry Society hosted an Anvil Press reading to celebrate the publication of Walks in Rome by F.T. Prince, his sixth long poem since Memoirs in Oxford (1970) and the poet's seventy-fifth birthday (the actual date: September 13). If he has written any short poems these last twenty years, it is a well kept secret. Anthony Rudolf, whose Menard Press published two Prince pamphlets in the 1970s and co-published the Collected Poems with Anvil in 1979, read out a tribute from Professor Milton Hindus of Brandeis University proposing that the occasion was one 'to celebrate wherever English poetry, scholarship and teaching are valued. His primary and most memorable contribution has been, of course, to poetry, and in this respect he has been, and will continue to be a teacher of teachers. But his impeccable scholarly contributions to the study of Shakespeare and Milton, and of twentieth century figures such as T.S. Eliot and Yeats, are also of lasting importance in those fields. And to these achievements we must add those of an inspirational classroom teacher.'

On December 3rd, the Poetry Society hosted an Anvil Press reading to celebrate the publication of Walks in Rome by F.T. Prince, his sixth long poem since Memoirs in Oxford (1970) and the poet's seventy-fifth birthday (the actual date: September 13). If he has written any short poems these last twenty years, it is a well kept secret. Anthony Rudolf, whose Menard Press published two Prince pamphlets in the 1970s and co-published the Collected Poems with Anvil in 1979, read out a tribute from Professor Milton Hindus of Brandeis University proposing that the occasion was one 'to celebrate wherever English poetry, scholarship and teaching are valued. His primary and most memorable contribution has been, of course, to poetry, and in this respect he has been, and will continue to be a teacher of teachers. But his impeccable scholarly contributions to the study of Shakespeare and Milton, and of twentieth century figures such as T. S. Eliot and Yeats, are also of lasting importance in those fields. And to these achievements we must add those of an inspirational classroom teacher.'

The First European Prize for the Translation of Poetry, to judge from its jury report, was an engagingly vulnerable affair. Of the 102 entries, only 54 conformed to the rules of the competition, and the panel of eminent jurors was thought to need 'spadework' assistance from a modestly anonymous 'technical advisory board'. In the event the prize of 4,000 ecus was awarded to Edmund Keeley for his translation of the poems of Yannis Ritsos (Exile and Return - Selected Poems 1967-1974, published by The Ecco Press, New York).

Fausto Federici has written a life of James Joyce in the form of a novel Quegli anni con Joyce which chooses to emphasize 'the love-hate for his parents, the perverted sexual relationship with his wife and total dependence upon her. . . the damage wrought by alcohol and the psychological consequences of glaucoma, the schizophrenic tendencies of his daughter, the repudiation of his country and contempt for his countrymen. . . the manifestation of infantilism. . .' The author and publisher make two particular claims for the book: that it will enable the reader '(without his even being aware of the fact) to participate in the pyscho-analytical study of Joyce the man' and offers 'the man in the street the entire output of the writer in an easy interpretative vein. . . outlining from a critical viewpoint the essential passages from individual works'. This is provided without 'fideistic prejudice or formal genuflection'.

In Austria the State Prize for literary translation has been awarded to Michael Hamburger. He is also to receive an honorary doctorate from the University of East Anglia.

Andrew Motion writes to remind PNR readers that the second volume of the New Chatto Poets series is to be published in the spring of 1989. Work to be considered for inclusion should reach him before March 31 1988, and be submitted, with a stamped addressed envelope, to Chatto & Windus, 30 Bedford Square, London WC1 3RP.

The planned visit of the Italian President to England and Scotland in November 1987 was abruptly cancelled when the Italian government fell. Those newspapers who had produced their specially planned sections may have been annoyed, but at least one less ephemeral publication was elegantly produced, with an interest far outlasting its occasion. This is Leopardi: a Scottis Quair, edited by R.D.S.Jack, M.L. McLaughlin and C. Whyte (Edinburgh University Press, £4.95): a selection of Leopardi's poems with translations into English, Gaelic and Scots by Douglas Dunn, Edwin Morgan and Iain Crichton Smith, among others. The booklet commemorates the 150th anniversary of Leopardi's death, and opens with his own remark: 'And it is truly extraordinary that one of the most Northern countries in Europe should regard the poetry of the hottest and most Southern parts of the world as natural, appropriate and congenial to its own character.'

Book Trust Scotland commissioned Edwin Morgan to compile a list of Twentieth Century Scottish Classics, and this fascinating booklet introduces readers to fiction that explores two facets of Scottish experience in particular: life in isolated rural communities, and in the streets of Glasgow. Many of these books have recently been reprinted by Canongate and Richard Drew, others await an enterprising publisher for their rediscovery. Morgan's comments on each title convey his enthusiasms and his reservations: the 'Glasgow Renascence' of the 1980s is well represented, but so also are quieter Highland voices. (Available from Book Trust Scotland, 15A Lynedoch Street, Glasgow G3 6EF; £1.50.)

In a recent report (PNR 60) we gave The Glasgow Magazine as The Glasgow Review. The error is regretted, as was the demise of the magazine after the withdrawal of its Scottish Arts Council grant. Hamish White and the Mariscat Press still thrive.

Vladeta Vuckovic is professor of Mathematics, a Serbo-Croatian poet and a translator of modern Yugoslav poetry. John Matthias's most recent collection of poems is Northern Summer. They both teach at Notre Dame University, where they have collaborated on an English translation of The Battle of Kosovo, the cycle of heroic ballads and poetic fragments generally thought to be the finest work of Serbian folk poetry. Ivan V. Lalic, the Yugoslav poet, praises the translation and Ohio University Press publishes it.

Tristan Tzara died in Paris in 1963. Between 1975 and 1982, Flammarion published Tzara's complete works in Henri Béhar's five-volume edition. In Tzara's last year, and with his approval, an English version of his poems was begun by Lee Harwood. A selection of that work has now been published (Coach House Press, 401 Huron Street, Toronto) as Chanson Dada. As well as the poems and a bibliography of Tzara's works, the book contains Harwood's essay on Dada.

Lee Harwood acknowledges the advice he received from Michel Couturier. As well as a translator - perhaps most notably of John Ashbery's poems - Couturier was a poet, co-editor of Siècle a Mains, and a writer on art. He died in November last year, aged fifty-five. (We hope to publish an appropriate appreciation in PNR.)

In a note to PNR, Henryk Bereza estimates that since the publication of Wiesław Mysliwski's novel Stone upon Stone in 1984, Polish fiction has produced nothing of comparable stature, although new writers have appeared, vocally committed to repudiating the conventions of the Polish literary tradition and its social, or indeed any other kind of pontification. Controversy over the new writing is vehement, but several writers are gaining recognition. Of these, Bereza singles out Andrzej Łuczenczyk whose The Stellar Prince was written in 1986 and has won two literary awards. This novella is the story of a man whose actions form an unrelieved sequence of horrendous wrongdoing, apparently in pursuit of power but in fact making no more sense than the final gratuitous act of the sequence, his suicide. With no opposition to his crimes, whether from victims, accomplices or society, the only person capable of exacting retribution is their perpetrator. A prose honed down to essentials and a narrative eschewing the least hint of comment create an atmosphere of moral tension like that, Bereza suggests, of Dostoevsky. A preoccupation with death and the foundations of the moral law pervades Łuczenczyk's other novella, The Source (also 1986) and two collections of stories, Down Empty Streets (1982) and When the Door Opens (1985). (Henry Bereza is editor of the Warsaw literary magazine Tworczosc.)

PNR readers will be interested to know of four recent symposia. Bête Noir has pieces by various hands on Basil Bunting (Double Issue, available from American Studies, University of Hull). Chapman in its 50th issue concentrates on Naomi Mitchison and Alasdair Gray (15 Nelson Street, Edinburgh). Harry Chambers has edited a Peterloo volume for Charles Causley's 70th birthday, with tributes in poetry and prose, previously unpublished material and worksheets by Causley, and a bibliography (2 Kelly Gardens, Calstock, Cornwall). Brocard Sewell has edited a symposium in memory of Frances Horowitz, with poems, memoir, photographs and a select bibliography (Aylesford Press, 158 Moreton Road, Upton, Wirral).

The Arvon Foundation's centre at Lumb Bank, Yorkshire, has two new Centre Directors, Sarah Dove and Philip Redpath. The 1988 programme includes some new departures: there are courses on 'Love Poetry' tutored by George MacBeth and Selima Hill, 'Comic Fiction' with Sue Townsend and Ravinder Randhawa, 'Word and Image' with Ken Smith and Judi Benson, and 'Science Fiction and Fantasy' with Iain Banks and Lisa Tuttle. Readers on courses include Carol Ann Duffy, Edwin Morgan, Howard Jacobson, and Bernard MacLaverty. Even in February, Lumb Bank is attractive, and the snow still hasn't blocked the road up from Todmorden.

This item is taken from PN Review 61, Volume 14 Number 5, May - June 1988.



Readers are asked to send a note of any misprints or mistakes that they spot in this item to editor@pnreview.co.uk
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