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This review is taken from PN Review 63, Volume 15 Number 1, September - October 1988.

Douglas Oliver, Kind (Allardyce. Barnett) £12.95, £7.00 pb.
Anthony Barnett, The Resting Bell (Allardyce. Barnett) £17.00, £8.95 pb.

Allardyce. Barnett must represent a venture unique in modern poetry publishing: the fearless focusing of large volumes (in effect collected poems) by poets of highly individual, often difficult and/or demanding, textuality, as an act of belief regardless of the state of the market. These are poets who have no place in the world of the poetry publicity-men, who would probably read them as hole-in-the-corner eccentrics and unsellables. But in fact Allardyce. Barnett's publishing programme is a necessary and courageous attempt to fulfil a public duty which the 'big' publishers have abnegated. Opinion aside, these poets (Andrew Crozier and J.H Prynne prior to the two under review) are manifestly serious and advanced practitioners, who have been writing since the early 1960s and have built up a considerable body of work, most of which is drifting out of sight in a series of small-press publications. These retrospective volumes recover these texts from obscurity as well as giving the poets the invaluable opportunity to define their own canons.

Comparison of these two books should firmly dismiss any notion that we are dealing with any particular 'school' of poetry, any provincial cult or incestuous family, and especially the absurd and meaningless tag 'poetry for poets' (more sophisticatedly, 'hermetic') which is sometimes thrown up as a defence against the fear of not understanding. Barnett and Oliver are greatly at variance in their methods and their musics, but one thing they share is an actual concern for the reader, a wish to engage ...


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