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

Editing Edgell Rickword Alan Young

My first meeting with Edgell Rickword was in early summer 1973. It was a blustery day of snow and sleet on the M1 as Michael Schmidt and I drove from Manchester to interview Edgell in his Islington home for the first issue of Poetry Nation. As we travelled we shrugged off the English weather and discussed topics which might arise and ways in which this particular interview might be important in helping to establish what Michael hoped would be the distinctive character of a new literary journal.

I was nearing the end of a piece of research into English modernism which had entailed study of the literary periodicals published in England between the two World Wars. The name Edgell Rickword had often caused puzzled fascination. Poems and stories by him in post-Armistice numbers of The Athenaeum, London Mercury, The Chapbook, New Statesman, Oxford Poetry, and elsewhere gave the first glimpses of a mind which had been affected deeply by experiences of war. There was only a handful of actual 'war poems', including the much-anthologized 'Winter Warfare' and 'The Soldier Addresses His Body', as well as the perhaps less well-known but most unnerving 'Trench Poets'. I did not know then that Edgell had been wounded and had lost the sight of one eye in World War I, but war-wounds seemed less unbearable to him than the deeper wounds of peacetime. Many of his poems and nearly all his early stories express a blighted, sometimes cruel, disillusionment about sexual ...

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