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This article is taken from PN Review 193, Volume 36 Number 5, May - June 2010.

Response to Michael Anania Stephen Burt

I’m grateful for Michael Anania’s attention, but taken aback by the sheer number of his particular complaints. I thought I had put forward a few hypotheses about qualities shared by many (not all) of the recent British poets I like, qualities hard to come by in American poetry now, in part because US and British culture and education aren’t the same, and in part because most American poets don’t read much current British poetry: I wish more of us read more of it. A few American poets, as Anania makes clear, read a lot of it, but it’s not a representative lot: it’s a particular cluster of sometimes fascinating neo-modernists, almost all indebted stylistically (and sometimes personally - nothing wrong with that) either to Bunting, or to J.H. Prynne. I should have said more about that few, and that cluster, and if I have the chance to expand or alter the essay someday I will do just that.

That said, most of Anania’s objections seem to me tendentious or non-responsive; a few involve errors of fact. I’m not sure how an essay (mine) that discusses two Rileys, Bunting, Minhinnick and (if in passing) Prynne can be accused of excluding ‘any British poetry that could be seen as modernist or experimental’. Choosing only from among the British poets whose work I actually admired, I tried to pick poets who came from various places on the stylistic map (as well as on the actual map: Scotland, Wales, the Southwest, ...

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