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This item is taken from PN Review 132, Volume 26 Number 4, March - April 2000.

News & Notes
As if to ridicule the 150th anniversary of the Public Libraries, Manchester City Council have proposed to impoverish one of the great public resources. One of the great civic libraries, the Central Reference, a handsome round building, recently cleaned and refurbished, which dominates St Peter's Square, the Cenotaph and the site of the Peterloo Massacre, will be 'rationalised'. The entire fourth floor, where Language and Literature are housed, will be closed. Most subject departments will close and the books be moved to a single lending section and a single reference section. Lending stock will be reduced by as much as half, and staff expertise will be dissipated. Individuals who regard this as an act of wilful vandalism should communicate their feelings to Richard Leese, Town Hall, Manchester M60 2LA (e-mail Richard.Leese@notes.

The American poet EDWARD DORN has died at the age of seventy. Best known in Britain for his Fulcrum Press books, in particular The North Atlantic Turbine and the controversial Gunslinger, and advocated here by critics as remote from one another as Donald Davie and Eric Mottram, he readership in the past thirty years had dwindled. His relationship with England began in the 1960s when he taught at the University of Essex, at Davie's invitation, as a Fulbright lecturer. His background and upbringing in Illinois and Michigan gave him a wanderlust, a need to escape, which stayed with him throughout his life. Education and subsequently poetry were two of his chosen escape vehicles. Associated with Charles Olson and the Black Mountain, he was - unlike Olson, Robert Creeley and Robert Duncan - a student there, not a teacher. His poetry was rooted in working-class politics and a sense of wild west myth. He kept faith with the dispossessed. His verse was loose in structure; if it lacked the economy of other Black Mountaineers and the exuberance of Ginsberg and the Beats, it had some of the unalloyed directness of address of Carl Sandburg, without being homespun or corny, and remaining alert to the formal challenges of intractable themes. His final ambitious project, Languedoc Variorum: A Defence of Heresy and Heretics, a long poem with a running prose commentary, is due for publication by Etruscan Books later this year. In his essay introducing Dorn to English readers Davie quoted 'Oxford Part V':

England beware
          The cliff of 1945
turns a natural insularity
into a late, and out of joint
naturalism of inbred
industrial indecision...

During the 1980s PN Review's chief biography reviewer - a generous spirit and a sharp critic - was the poet PETER LEVI, once Jesuit priest and later Professor of Poetry at Oxford, a prolific biographer himself. His reviews always arrived hand-written in an entirely legible, spidery hand-writing with insert-balloons and corrections reminiscent of Balzac's mansucripts. There was something of the letter-writer in his reviews and biographies, a directness and immediacy of address, that gave the sense of a man addressing someone he was confident to be his equal in interest and energy if not in information. Levi, who had suffered two strokes, the first eight years ago, died in January at the age of sixty nine. His poems were first published commercially by André Deutsch, then Macmillan and Gollancz, before coming to rest with Anvil. He was one of Anvil Press's first and remained one of its favourite authors, starting with the pamphlet Pancakes for the Queen of Babylon, and culminating in two substantial Collected Poems (1976, 1984). Other books followed, including The Rags of Time (1994) and Reed Music (1997). He was a translator (sometimes collaboratively) from ancient and modern Greek, from Latin, Hebrew, Serbo- Croat, Russian and other languages. Widely and deeply learnèd, a classical scholar with a Romantic temperament, Peter Levi could celebrate in a Rilkean way, but latterly his chosen mode was elegy. He wrote in a bewildering variety of styles and least comfortably in traditional forms and metres where technical facility (as in the recent poetry of Tony Harrison) lets the language outrun sense and occasion. He was a benign but volatile presence, emphatic and on occasion peremptory in his likes and dislikes, a dandy who, with his handsome walking stick and slightly petulant good looks, grew wiser and kinder.

LAURIS EDMOND, the New Zealand poet and valued contributor to this journal, died on 28 January. A full appreciation of her work by Robyn Marsack will appear in a future issue of PN Review.

The William Cowper Symposium this year is an important one, marking the bicentennial of the death of the great hymn writer and poet. It runs from 27 to 30 April, and is based in Olney, Bucks, where Cowper spent some of his most productive years and composed the Olney Hymns. With lectures and discussions lead by Vincent Newey, Bill Hutchings, Tim Fulford and many more, it will be an enlightening weekend not only for Cowper devotees but for students of the eighteenth century. For booking information e-mail before the beginning of April.

Banipal is the magazine in English of Modern Arabic Literature; now we learn of the launch of Amber: a journal of Nordic and Baltic cultures. Aiming to 'familiarise English speakers with the literary and cultural treasures that lie on the other side of the language barriers that separate us from our close neighbours in Europe', Amber will present new writing and current reports of cultural events in the countries around the Baltic Sea. Links with Britain will be emphasised, raising awareness of the cultural and literary environments which Scandinavia and Finland have striven to secure. The instigator of this journal is Christopher Moseley, a Latvian news translator for the BBC. The first 'dummy' issue will appear in the early Autumn. Subscription details are available from 2 Wanbourne Lane, Nettlebed, Henley, Oxfordshire RG9 5AH

The Women in Spanish, Portuguese and Latin American Studies group hold their conference on 12-13 May as part of the Spring/Summer events programme of the Institute of Romance Studies at the University of London. This conference marks the launch of an organisation concerned with feminist studies and the role of women in British Luso-Hispanism. It is open to anyone interested in gender issues and will include sessions on 'Mediaeval Women and Religious Experience', 'Voices from the Periphery: Minority Languages and Cultures of the Hispanic World' and 'Portuguese Women Writers'. Details are available from the Institute of Romance Studies on 0207 862 8675.

News & Notes compiled by GAYNOR HODGSON.

This item is taken from PN Review 132, Volume 26 Number 4, March - April 2000.

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