Most Read... Rebecca WattsThe Cult of the Noble Amateur
(PN Review 239)
John McAuliffeBill Manhire in Conversation with John McAuliffe
(PN Review 259)
Eavan BolandA Lyric Voice at Bay
(PN Review 121)
Patricia CraigVal Warner: A Reminiscence
(PN Review 259)
Vahni CapildeoOn Judging Prizes, & Reading More than Six Really Good Books
(PN Review 237)
Tim Parksin conversation with Natalia Ginzburg
(PN Review 49)
Next Issue Gwyneth Lewis ‘Spiderings’ Ian Thomson ‘Fires were started: Tallinn, 1944’ Adrian May ‘Traditionalism and Tradition’ Judith Herzberg ‘Poems’ translated by Margitt Helbert Horatio Morpurgo ‘What is a Book?’
Poems Articles Interviews Reports Reviews Contributors
PN Review 276
PN Review Substack

This report is taken from PN Review 134, Volume 26 Number 6, July - August 2000.

Poetry's Maw Val Warner

Under the title 'Against Oblivion', Ian Hamilton gave two twenty-minute concertinterval Radio 3 talks (22 and 24 March 2000) on Hart Crane, Charlotte Mew, Weldon Kees and Norman Cameron. Hamilton is currently preparing his Lives of the Poets. This work is intended to do for fifty or so dead twentieth-century poets what Dr Johnson's famous volume of the same title did for fifty-two seventeenth- and eighteenth-century poets (and is not to be confused with the recent history of poetry in English under the same title by the editor of this magazine - legally, copyright in titles does not exist).

Outlining his project, Hamilton fretted interestingly about poets who've been encouraged to believe they had 'uncommon gifts', that their work would last - Yet, where now are Johnson's Edmund Smith or Thomas Yalden, to name but two? (Come to that, what of those who didn't/don't even make it into Johnson's/Hamilton's top fifty, respectively?) So many lives sucked into poetry's maw.

Because Hamilton was narrowly focusing on - bluntly - 'fame', he ignored the valuable educational and therapeutic work done nowadays in schools, hospitals and poetry workshops by many poets, unlikely ever to make the top fifty. Moreover, we are all mutually interconnected in the sense that there would not be a top fifty - whoever they are - without 'lesser lights' remorselessly pushing up from below, in turn being squeezed by 'amateurs' who may publish only the odd poem in magazines.

Perhaps Hamilton (born ...

Searching, please wait... animated waiting image