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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 57, Volume 14 Number 1, September - October 1987.

News & Notes
Primo Levi has died in Turin at the age of sixty-seven. His recent works included The Periodic Table and Moments of Reprieve, and a new book of stories is to be published in May by Michael Joseph. A conversation with Ian Thomson, which took place in June last year, is to appear in PNR 58.

John Lehmann has died, aged 79. Brother of the novelist Rosamond Lehmann, he was one of the century's most influential magazine editors. He set up and edited New Writing (1936-39), Daylight (1941), New Writing and Daylight (1942-46), and, most importantly, Penguin New Writing (1940-50), which, 150 pages long and selling for sixpence, ran for 40 numbers, sometimes selling 100,000 copies per issue, and fed the wartime craving for reading material. Rejecting the poets of the Apocalyptic movement, Lehmann encouraged the careers of Henry Reed, Roy Fuller, Laurie Lee and Denton Welch. His publishing imprint, John Lehmann, published, among more than 200 titles between 1946 and 1951, a translation of Sartre's La Nausée, and Saul Bellow's Dangling Man. As a poet, he came to public attention with his inclusion, with other left-wing poets, in the 1930s anthologies of Michael Roberts. When Enitharmon published Lehmann's Poems New and Selected last year, Peter Levi remarked in these pages (PNR 51) that he 'is an authentic talent that deserves a more thorough reconsideration'. Certainly, poems like 'The Sphere of Glass' and 'Coming into Your Room' do not deserve the neglect into which they have fallen.

Jean Margaret Wemyss Laurence (1926-1987). On 5 January Canadian novelist Margaret Laurence died of lung cancer at the age of sixty in her home in Ontario. Regarded since the 1960s as one of Canada's most authoritative writers, her novels pioneered many of the themes and narrative techniques being explored in contemporary Canadian women's writing in English. She is best known for her Manawaka novels: The Stone Angel (1961), A Jest of God (1966), The Fire-Dwellers (1969) and The Diviners (1974), all set on the prairies and told by female narrators. As a regional and historical novelist, she had a strong sense of the individual's imaginative need for the revision of history. Born and brought up in Manitoba, Laurence did not begin writing about Canada till fifteen years after she had left it, having lived in England and then in Africa. Much of the Manawaka cycle was written in England before she returned permanently to Canada in the early 1970s. Manwaka for Laurence as for her characters is a 'town of the mind', a fiction reinvented from memory as her narrators attempt to write themselves into their inheritance. ['My writing has been my own attempt to come to terms with the past. . . It really is a coming to some kind of terms with your roots and your ancestors, and if you like, with your gods.'] It is as a regional novelist but one who like Hardy and Joyce transcends localities of time and place that she will be remembered. The Manawaka novels, which have been out of print in England since the mid-1970s will be reissued by Virago in sequence, beginning May 1987.
CORAL ANN HOWELLS.

Howard Sergeant has died. He will be remembered particularly for his tireless encouragement of new poetry, as the founding editor of Outposts, and as the editor of sixty or more anthologies. He was awarded the MBE in 1978 and for his own poetry he was awarded the Henry Shore prize in 1979 and the Dorothy Tutin award in 1980. His most recent publication was A Question of Respect published in 1986 by the Blue Bridge Press (24 Aireville Road, Frizinghall, BD9 4HH)

Oriel Bookshop has produced the fifth edition of its useful address list of nearly 700 magazines and small presses in the UK. Peter Finch has compiled the list for Oriel and the Association of Little Presses. The nature of small presses guarantees that some of the addresses given are already incorrect as the enterprises pass on into new bed-sits and into legend. Catching history on the wing, the list is the best we're likely to have, and can be obtained from 53 Charles Street, Cardiff.

It's a pleasure to note the consistent elegance of the publications of two such presses. The Mandeville Press has recently produced four beautifully printed pamphlets of poetry: A Girl with Beehive Hair by John Press, Ambion Hill by John Wells, The Return by Christopher Levenson, and Variations on Aldeburgh by Edward Lowbury. In Yorkshire - and a neighbour of the Arvon Foundation at Lumb Bank - the Littlewood Press has recently published collections of poems by Anna Adams, Stanley Cook and Graham Mort. John Killick, Littlewood's founder and editor, invokes a policy of seeking out poets who speak a 'direct language', though his pamphlet series 'Cragg Poets' is a topographical allusion rather than an injunction.

However tentatively and vulnerably, 'Glasnost' gathers momentum. Index notes the journal of the Soviet writers' union, October, has published Anna Akhmatova's 'Requiem'. A sequence of Nabokov's poems has also appeared with an introductory essay by Andrey Voznesensky. Nabokov's early novel The Defence has now been published in the magazine Moskva, and his essay questioning Gogol's talismanic status is expected (in the way these things are) to be published in Novy Mir. Perhaps to be viewed in the same light is the emergence of an independent publishing co-operative, to be managed by writer-shareholders. The State Committee for Publishing and the Writers' Union are reported (by Martin Walker) to support the venture politically although it will seek viability in 'the free play of the market'.

The Beinecke Library at Yale University houses an archive of Ezra Pound's manuscripts from which Donald C. Gallup has edited Pound's five short Plays Modelled on the Noh (1916). This is in a limited edition of 500 copies available from Friends of the University of Toledo Libraries and costs $17.00 per copy. (PNR readers who live in Ohio are charged an extra 6% sales tax, but will recollect Mauberley: 'He made no immediate application/Of this to relation of the state/To the individual. . .')

Edward James was probably best known as a generous and perceptive patron of the arts in music, ballet, literature and painting. His interest in Surrealism became an enabling force in that movement, sponsoring the magazine Minotaure and building a remarkable collection of paintings. He also wrote poetry, from the 'twenties to the 'eighties, in an idiom that owes more to the Georgians than to the Surrealists, and a selection of his poems has been compiled by Noel Simon for Weidenfeld and Nicolson. Peter Levi's introductory essay makes cautious, modest claims for the poetry. A frontispiece by Dali and illustrations by Rex Whistler decorate rather than contribute to the book. We're told that the longer poems, including 'several epics', have been omitted and that the volume concentrates on the post-war work, but there are no bibliographical notes for those of us who might want to seek out the earlier poems or even the epics.

Number 7 of Tracks, the occasional magazine published by The Dedalus Press, concerns the work of Thomas Kinsella. The editor John F. Deane takes a neat approach: each critical essay is by a 'practising' poet, and each essay is followed with a poem by that critic (even where it's McCormack the critic who then follows as Maxton the poet). McCormack's essay on Kinsella's aesthetic development is much better than its start bodes: 'Let me begin with two notes which, considered together, must constitute a discordance.' Eavan Boland writes a piece that is characteristically elegant and to the point. There is also a conversation between Kinsella and the editor.

Methuen is celebrating 1987 with three new magazines. New Formations declares as its impulse 'the need for sustained critical engagement with the regimes of representation that have become a characteristic and peculiarly pervasive feature of the way power is exercised in contemporary societies.' Textual Practice sets out to apply 'the perception, deriving from the study of literature, that a culture's significant activities involve a process which may fruitfully be conceived in terms of the production and consumption, the reading and writing of 'texts'.' Cultural Studies is 'dedicated to the notion that the study of cultural processes, and especially of popular culture, is important, complex, and both theoretically and politically rewarding.' Contributors might be exercised in knowing to which journal they should send their essays. Readers might need to take out subscriptions to all three journals. Advertisers, at least, have no problem: Methuen's David Polley constitutes the autonomous subject and mediating consciousness (advertising manager) for all three magazines. Methuen's New Accents series seems to have been the legitimising canon for the project, but the range of the essays is more stimulating than that might suggest.

PN REVIEW recently received the second issue of Anthem in which the Editorial announced its concern for integrity and 'entertaining presentation' - qualities which 'percolate through every brush-stroke and every word.' Lest this be thought a difficult business, the Chief Editor makes it clear that 'no poem will appear which is obscure for obscures sake' (a slip of the percolator).

'During the 1960s it was widely believed that the Finnish aphorism was dead.' Not all PNR readers will have been aware of this. 'Nevertheless, phoenix-like, the aphorism rose from the ashes' and Books from Finland advises us of the genre's renaissance - for example, in the way it locates evil not in people but in the world. PNR readers will be heartened. The new aphorists can be categorized, we're told, as mystics, ironists, individualists and dissidents, writing works like 'After having created the spade, the ditch created itself'. Trenchant.

'The first task of the poetic imagination is to create the poems. The second task is to invent an audience. This is exactly what Whitman did.' Stanley Kunitz did not go on to speak of creating prizes for the poets, but he has recently been awarded both Yale University's Bollingen Prize and the Walt Whitman Citation of Merit (a laureate equivalent for New York State). His most recent collection was Next-to-Last Things: New Poems and Essays (Atlantic Monthly Press), and this Spring will see the The Essential Blake which Kunitz has selected for the Ecco Press.

Modern Czech poetry remains largely unexplored by English readers, even after Seifert's Nobel prize. It is obvious that no amount of prize-giving will make much difference without the intervention of those 'post-horses of enlightenment', translators. Reason enough, then, to pay what must, sadly, be posthumous tribute to Dr Václav Sverak, born in Vienna in 1921, a professor of German in Prague who made his home in England after the events of 1968. A lecturer at Manchester Polytechnic, he died of lupus in 1981, Sverak's major enterprise as a translator - a hundred and thirty poems by Seifert's friend František Halas (1901-49) - bears the year of his death on its title page, under the imprint of Woodworm Books. But, together with another volume of translations (from Goethe, Rilke, Verlaine, Rimbaud and a scatter of Czech poets, classic and contemporary), it can now be acquired from A. H. Jackson, 31 Deneford Road, Manchester M20 8TE. (All proceeds go to the Arthritis and Rheumatism Council and cheques for £8.50 should be made payable to Jackson, A. in re Wenceslas Sverak, Deceased.)

The Halas, which is modestly produced, must in range and scope be the most ambitious effort on behalf of a Czech poet ever undertaken in this country. The poems are selected from some sixteen collections, and are strikingly homogeneous from first to last. The early work is shot through with a world-weary gloom which, though not negligible in itself, threatens to leave Halas trapped in a vicious and solipsistic circle. Thereafter Halas's compassion is for the most part reserved for others, notably in 'Working Women' (1934) and 'Old Women' (1935). These are typical instances of Halas applying an essentially Surrealist manner to proletarian material. But the deepening crisis of the times prompted him to adopt the stance of a partisan, as is clear from 'I shall go back' (1939; a prose poem) and the sequence for Božena N B;mcová, a classic figure of the mid-nineteenth century and for the poet a symbol of his nation's refusal to submit to tyranny. Written in 1940, this latter collection is an oblique commentary on the aftermath of appeasement. Halas was not unnaturally appalled by what passed for diplomacy as the great powers dismantled Europe on the way to war.

On the evidence of these translations one may feel that individual lines and poems of Halas matter less than the cumulative effect; this is perhaps why Sverak cast his net wider than would ordinarily be considered desirable in introducing an unknown poet to a wider audience. As Halas himself says, in the posthumously published 'Dolores', 'don't be fooled by the poem'. To complement this precept Sverak might possibly have given us a little more context to work with, but it would be churlish to complain when so much labour has been expended on Halas's behalf, and when the specific benefits serve so generally desirable an end.
JP

This item is taken from PN Review 57, Volume 14 Number 1, September - October 1987.



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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