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

A Living Poet Fraser Steel

'I think you might find this one quite interesting,' said George MacBeth. It was late in a summer afternoon spent ransacking George's office, in preparation for his departure from the BBC. He had been admirably thorough in passing on programme suggestions, and I was no longer in the mood to be much interested in anything. What I slipped dutifully into my briefcase was a letter from a publisher drawing attention, in the disinterested way publishers will, to a forthcoming edition of Edgell Rickword, and a copy of the 1947 Collected Poems.

As I made my first acquaintance with the poems (it was on the Pullman back to Manchester-`Ode to a Train-de-luxe' did not miss its mark) it was the sudden presence of a new and unaccountable voice that struck me. In this agile and confident verse there were tones I had not heard sounded in the familiar curriculum of poetry from the trenches to the 1930s-war poems, wiry without being hard-bitten; later lyrics of complete sanity, yet intense fancy; then a public rhetoric which seemed to me to command a tradition of English satirical writing more fully than the work of other, noisier poets of the day. And next, inexplicably, silence. It was chastening to find that such a poet had escaped the attention of the BBC for so long; with some sense of the urgency of the task, I invited Alan Young to prepare and present a programme in Radio 3's 'Living Poet' series.

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