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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 131, Volume 26 Number 3, January - February 2000.

News & Notes
On 11 November, Oxford University Press in Melbourne suspended delivery of Les Murray: A Life in Progress by PETER ALEXANDER to shops because some of the contents were an alleged defamation, stemming from an account of how the poet was ousted from his long-term position as poetry reader at the firm of Angus and Robertson (later Collins) in Sydney. Lawyers for both the author and the University where he teaches condemned the allegations as 'trivial and without substance'. The commissioning editor, Peter Rose, is said to have told the author that OUP had pulped the books, which sent three other publishers clamouring to publish it unaltered. Les Murray was heard to say that if publishers could be cowed by the mere threat of a minor suit, perhaps criticism and literary studies were to become victims of censorship in Australia. By the end of the week, Rose admitted to Professor Alexander that the books had not in fact been pulped, and that the offending page could be replaced, removing any trace of offending words. Les Murray averred that while the biography was Peter Alexander's book, it was his life, and that after this insult it could not be published by OUP. 'OUP may deal in pulp fiction, but I decline to furnish the material for it,' he said.

One of Spain's great poets has died at the age of 96. RAFAEL ALBERTI was born on 16 December 1902 in a small Andalusian town whose landscape was to inspire much of his poetry. A committed communist, Alberti was the last survivor of the Generation of 1927, named to commemorate the fourth centenary of the death of the baroque poetmaster Góngora, from whom they took anti-Romantic bearings. Many of Alberti's friends were members of the group, including Lorca, Vicente Aleixandre and Luis Cernuda. His first celebrated collection of poetry, Marinero en tierra, was published in 1924. It was accessible and immediately popular, though Alberti's later work - he was more intellectual than Lorca, more subjectively troubled than Machado - developed into a more intellectual and speculative realm. One key to all Alberti's work and reputation is the presence in his poetry, the excellent and the dire, of a desire for a better world, drawn from those sparkling seas and bluest of skies in Andalucia. Alberti was also a playwright, using the medium for political statement: 'I repent for nothing. I am not an ex-communist,' he said on his ninetieth birthday.

MICHAEL HARTNETT, poet and translator, was in many ways a traditionalist, keeping his distance from the patrons and prizes of the literary world. He made his debut in the first issue of Poetry Ireland, launched in the early 1960s by Liam Miller. He had an uneasy career. He belonged to a group remote from the Ulster poets and with a very different programme. Born in Limerick in 1941, he grew up speaking Gaelic and excelled in translation, reading widely and experimenting with a variety of verse forms. His first collection of love poetry, Anatomy of a Cliché, was published by Liam Miller's Dolmen Press in 1968. This was followed in 1970 by his Selected Poems which revealed a colloquial, learned voice true to the small farms of his upbringing, but also to the rapidly changing cityscape of Dublin. His most sensational gesture was to bid A Farewell to English in 1975, and to write primarily in Irish for a decade and more. 'I have made my choice/and leave with little weeping:/ I have come with meagre voice/to court the language of my people.' He died aged 58 in Dublin on 13 September 1999.

IDA AFFLECK GRAVES has died, six months after her second book of poems, The Calfbearer, was published by Oxford University Press. Born in India in 1902, her early life was lonely, apart from her parents and subjected to the harsh climate of English boarding schools. She was determined to be a poet. Alone at school, she wrote every day except Sundays and went on to read English at London University. Her eminent contemporaries include, among others, Virginia Woolf (who was the first to recognise her talent and publish her in the Spectator in 1920), Henry Moore, Jacob Epstein and Stanley Spencer. In 1929, the Woolfs' Hogarth Press published The China Cupboard as No. 5 in the 'Hogarth Living Poets' series. During the war she worked as a scene painter and seamstress for Covent Garden and in 1936 the Gemini Press published her long poem Epithalamion with wood engravings by Blair Hughes-Stanton, with whom she renovated the sixteenth- century Weavers' House in Constable country and in whose garden she is now buried. She wrote two novels and a series of books for children. Raising her own children (her son was later tragically killed in an avalanche), she wrote poetry as she had at school, almost every day except Sunday. But she did not publish for forty years. At last her friend and later unofficial agent Peter Wallis typed the poems and sent them to Oxford in 1993. A Kind of Husband was published in 1994, remarkable among other things for its descriptions of her wild, unmodernised house, and filled with her mischievous tones. Her husband, Don Nevard, a jazz pianist, became her companion in 1953 and was with her when she died on 14 November.

JOÃO CARBRAL DE MELO NETO died in Rio de Janeiro in October. Known as the last great figure of the golden age of Brazilian poetry, Cabral was acknowledged long before his death as a classic. Born in 1920 in Recife, he belonged to a bourgeois family, living in the affluent sugarcane farms of the region. Following a brief career as a public servant, he moved to Rio and joined the diplomatic service in 1945. His family subsidised his first book of poems, O engenheiro (The Engineer) in that year. Posted to Barcelona in 1946, he purchased a small hand-operated press and produced some of his best books including Psicologia da composição (The Psychology of Composition, 1947) and O Cão sem plumas (The Featherless Dog, 1950). He became a close friend of the artist Joan Miró, who published Cabral's essay on his work illustrated with wood-cuts. When Cabral published his first collected works (1954) he was already celebrated as a leading poet of the '1945 Generation'. He retired from the diplomatic corps in 1990. He had been elected to the Brazilian Academy of Letters in 1968. His Poesias Completas (translated by Elizabeth Bishop in 1969) were published to great acclaim. He was regarded as a candidate for the Nobel Prize, but he was awarded Portugal's supreme accolade, the Camões Prize, in 1990, and in 1992 the Neustadt Prize.

CLARISSA LUARD, Senior Literature Officer, Arts Council of England, died at the age of 50. Her promotion just three days before her death illustrated her strength of character in working through her illness: most of her colleagues and clients were unaware that she was gravely ill with cancer. Her experiences as a literary agent gave her a unique perspective on the problems that authors and publishers face. She was committed to uniting the two parties for the good of literature and had recently initiated a market research project to establish how best to increase the sale of poetry. She was married in 1976 to Salman Rushdie with whom she had a son, Zafar in 1979. Their marriage was later dissolved, but Rushdie was with her when she died and read the address at her funeral. Clarissa's zest for all things literary and her dedication to the underdog earned her a great many admirers and friends.

The launch of yet another poetry magazine shouldn't necessarily be an occasion for celebration. But The Shop: a magazine of poetry edited by John Wakeman is well worth a look. It is simply, as the title says, a magazine of poetry. The poetry is generally good, the appearance exquisite, and it is punctuated with beautiful sketches and photographs. Interestingly, in view of Michael Hartnett's untimely death, it features a taste from An Duanaire 1600-1900: Poems of the Dispossessed, edited by Séan Ó Tuama with translations by Thomas Kinsella, first published in 1981 by the Dolmen Press. Three issues of The Shop cost £11 in Ireland and the UK, £15 in Europe, £20 in the USA from the Rectory, Toormore, Goleen, Co. Cork, Ireland.

SYLVIA TOWNSEND WARNER, the poet, novelist and short story writer celebrated in PNR in 1981, is to have a society dedicated to her life and work, dedicated to promoting a wider readership and better understanding of her writings. Members will receive two newsletters and one journal each year. There will also be at least one meeting each year in and around Dorset where Warner made her home. The Society begins its activities in January 2000. Subscriptions of £10 ($20) are being invited now, and should be sent to: the Secretary, Sylvia Townsend Warner Society, 2 Vicarage Lane, Dorchester, DT1 1LH.

As PN Review 131 went to press we were saddened to learn that Slow Dancer Press has ceased publishing new titles. Blaming the demise on 'various considerations, mostly financial', John Harvey insists that those titles already in print will be supported. He raises the issue of high returns from bookshops: 'HarperCollins and the like may be able to withstand those sorts of figures: we cannot.' Slow Dancer magazine and then Slow Dancer Press have published some outstanding writers early in their careers, among them Simon Armitage, Lavinia Greenlaw; more recently Tamar Yoseloff's Sweetheart and Matthew Caley's Thirst both took major prizes. R.I.P. S.D.P.

Produced as a joint venture by the British Council Literature Department and the British Centre for Literary Translation, www.literary translation.com contains all one could possibly want to know about literary translation internationally. Including a listing section for events, conferences and seminars and a full guide to translators and contacts, it is a remarkable site. An forthcoming event worth noting is a talk by Peter Bush, Director of BCLT, on Recent Developments in the Publishing Industry and the Impact on Literary Translation (23 March). Further details can be obtained from the website address.

The latest double issue of Agenda (37: 2-3) is also a double celebration: of the magazine's fortieth anniversary and of Thom Gunn's seventieth birthday. There are four new poems by Gunn, together with seventeen essays by admirers including James Campbell, Martin Dodsworth, August Kleinzahler, Neil Powell, Robert Wells and Clive Wilmer. True to Agenda's first and most enduring allegiance, there are also two memoirs of Ezra Pound and some hitherto unpublished 'Notes for Cantos'. A substantial selection of poems, a forty-page 'tribute' to Beddoes and a couple of long reviews (one of them a fine piece by Peter Scupham on Edward Mendelson's Later Auden) complete the issue. As Gunn himself has said, 'Agenda is one of the two indispensable literary periodicals in Britain' (you are reading the other one); a year's subscription costs £24 from 5 Cranbourne Court, Albert Bridge Road, London SW11 4PE.

News & Notes compiled by GAYNOR HODGSON.

This item is taken from PN Review 131, Volume 26 Number 3, January - February 2000.



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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