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This report is taken from PN Review 66, Volume 15 Number 4, March - April 1989.

Kenneth Baker Profile Michael Schmidt
When Kenneth Baker presented the W.H. Smith Award to Elizabeth Jennings last year at the Stationers' Hall, he disarmed several politically hostile poets by recognising them as poets: 'Didn't you write that poem about...' - and then quoting a line or two. Sceptics thought that he had been over-briefed. In fact he has a passion for poetry and he wants to share that passion. He has a record as an imaginative anthologist. Long before I knew he was a politician I possessed his venomous I Have No Gun But I Can Spit, one of the best-focussed anthologies of scathing satire I've come across. And his Faber anthology*, with which he catechised Russian schoolchildren, like a nineteenth-century missionary with a crate of Bibles, is a timely idea well executed.

'You and your colleagues in the literary world,' he remonstrated, when I asked him to justify his inclusion of short extracts from major poems, and suggested that his treatment of Marvell's Horatian Ode in particular was cavalier-or rather, Roundhead-'You and your colleagues in the literary world absorb poetry. It is your life. You take it automatically and can deal with it. Most people don't. It's an alien experience. For instance, people don't know the story of Absalom and Achitophel, and then you have to have all the footnotes explaining about the Duke of Buckingham and all that. And so I tried to lead people towards an interest... and a number of people have said to me about the Faber book, "Well, ...


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