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This poem is taken from PN Review 56, Volume 13 Number 6, July - August 1987.

Oxford
It might be tempting to fill this space with theory and statements (not to mention statistics) about 'British Poetry Today', and I am sure other editors and better critics than I will have seized the opportunity. However, what possible connection is to be made - to consider Oxford's list in particular - between the erudite and elegant skills of an American poet such as Anthony Hecht and the idiosyncratic and evasive poetry of Medbh McGuckian; between D. J. Enright's elliptical wit and Edward Kamau Brathwaite's experimental exuberance; between the work of Derek Mahon and of Penelope Shuttle; of Roy Fisher and of Hugo Williams - and so on? Lack of a sense of direction (if not of style) on the Oxford list? - or rather, a range and variety that have made up a thoroughly eclectic and intelligent list of contemporary writers.

Good poets (unlike troublesome tss) come as single voices: their poems haunt you; they irk, and please you; and even alter you, in their several irresistible ways.

A certain formal skill, wit, and learning, a use of language that is richly referential rather than pure and lyrical, may well describe what George Szirtes tells me he feels is typical of the 'heartland' of OUP's list. And maybe this befits a university press, that has had the imagination to publish new poetry (from several of its far-flung branches) and not only continues adding to the backlist of Oxford English Texts, variant editions, and Oxford Authors, but wisely cultivates poets of the twentieth century too. From Oxford we publish about six to eight individual volumes in Oxford Paperbacks each year; eventually, as appropriate, we publish 'Selections' and 'Collections' (not forgetting recent poets such as Keith Douglas, Bernard Spencer, Basil Bunting). Stephen Romer is the newest addition to the list; American Brad Leithauser, and Carole Satyamurti follow later this year. We do not at the moment publish enough poetry in translation (although several Oxford poets are fine translators; and formerly, Jon Stallworthy has added Russian poets to the list), and we should seek to do more in this perplexing area.

Simon Mason, assistant poetry editor, and I have made a rather free selection from some of the poets we publish - we are sorry there is not room for everybody - and hope the poems will speak for themselves.
JACQUELINE SIMMS
 
HUGO WILLIAMS
Walking Out Of The Room Backwards


Out of work at fifty, smoking fifty a day,
my father wore his sheepskin coat
and went to auditions
for the first time in his life.
I watched in horror from my bedroom window
as he missed the bus to London
in full view of the house opposite.
'If it weren't for you and the children',
he told my mother from his bed,
...


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