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This article is taken from PN Review 9, Volume 6 Number 1, September - October 1979.

A Man Speaking to Men Martin Seymour-Smith

DAVID WRIGHT's poetic beginnings, as he explains in his carefully written introduction, were in the 1940s. This is not at present regarded as having been a good period in English poetry. It was in fact no worse than any other, and better than some-Kirkup was better than Porter, and Derek Stanford was no worse than Abse-but there are reasons for the present distaste for it. Reasons strong enough to prejudice readers against a poet who happened to begin then. The New Apocalyptics were rather silly, and George Fraser must often regret the merry moment in which he compared Nicholas Moore to William Blake (not that Moore is inferior to Ian Hamilton: neither of them are successful as poets, but while the older one embarrasses us-"I still remember the unpleasant warmth of your legs"-the other is afraid to admit that anything he does could be embarrassing: for example, he sets out, laudably, to "rehabilitate" Alun Lewis, but ends by "rescuing" him, as he put it, from some of his best poems). It was the 1940s people who made us aware of such American poets as Delmore Schwartz, and the 1940s people who knew that Schwartz had been influenced by George Barker. It is they who see how Berryman, too, took a great deal from Barker-who had been doing what he did, less suicidally, for about a quarter of a century before Berryman thought of it. I think I prefer the 1940s critics on American poetry to the review school on ...


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