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This report is taken from PN Review 33, Volume 10 Number 1, September - October 1983.

The Cambridge Poetry Festival Robyn Marsack
The weather ranged from the only spring day there had been, to light snow (Holub: 'This is physically wrong'), and neither deterred the audiences. It is true that they ranged from a sprinkling at the opening- low-key, genial- to a crowd for the feminists, the representatives of the 1930s, and the last evening. Did poets listen to other poets? Franco Fortini was assiduous, Christopher Middleton was constant, others variable. Jean Earle, her own delivery characterized by modesty, her poems' truth their touchstone, listened intently to John Ash- not a modest poet but a very engaging one in performance. His baroque and comic inventions when spoken were less wilful than they sometimes appear on the page.

If Ash was enfant terrible, who was Authority? Perhaps it was represented by the ghosts of Montale and Sereni, especially as summoned by Fortini. The Festival's emphasis was Greek, yet the Italians won out. Cavafy and Seferis, admired, revered, much discussed, didn't come to such life. There were flickers in discussions of translating Seferis- nearly lost in the old arguments of translation vs imitation- when Nassos Vayenas and Peter Levi recollected meetings with Seferis: his dry advice to translators, his diplomatist/poet's dismay over Claudel. When Claudel's house was burnt down, the poet was found weeping in the garden, not over his nine-act play in the cinders in a drawer, but over the loss of his ambassadorial trousers . . .

Fortini's anecdotes were of a different cast: of Montale's 'Hitlerian Spring' he ...


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