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

A Brief Memoir of Edgell Rickword Jack Beeching

Early in 1936-when at a school where the approved poets were the wetter Georgians, and where jokes could safely be made about the incomprehensibility of Yeats-I had the astonishing good fortune to come across a collection called Whips and Scorpions, in which were poems by Edgell Rickword, Jack Lindsay and others who not long after were to become my friends. Such poems as these were eye-openers: they tore strips off a world I already knew to be complacent, cruel, false. And then more luck: encounters in quick succession with Baudelaire, Rimbaud, Edgell's biography of Rimbaud, his Invocations to Angels, his Handbook of Freedom-the way ahead was clear.

Edgell was editing Left Review, but he, like Day Lewis, kept
a brotherly eye on our lunatic fringe at Poetry and the People. In 1939 we had made up the September number at a moment well before the declaration of hostilities, when to oppose conscription and detest the threatened war were still O.K. This was hardly the note Rupert Brooke had sounded. So, for want, at the time, of any nearer enemy, the national press decided ('Where Are Our War Poets?') to savage us. Edgell had been one of the handful of English poets in his generation to survive trench warfare. He took up our defence in a piece of quiet and measured invective which must have given the Old Lady of Printing House Square the vapours.

With help from Nancy Cunard among others, Poetry and the ...


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