Most Read... Rebecca WattsThe Cult of the Noble Amateur
(PN Review 239)
John McAuliffeBill Manhire in Conversation with John McAuliffe
(PN Review 259)
Patricia CraigVal Warner: A Reminiscence
(PN Review 259)
Eavan BolandA Lyric Voice at Bay
(PN Review 121)
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
Reader Survey
PN Review Substack

This item is taken from PN Review 28, Volume 9 Number 2, November - December 1982.

News & Notes
EDGELL RICKWORD, poet, editor and critic, died on 15 March. Readers will remember how central the example of his editorship of the Calendar of Modern Letters was to the original conception of Poetry Nation, and how his work was featured in a special supplement edited by Alan Munton in PNR 9. Alan Munton has contributed an obituary and appreciation to this issue of PNR in the 'Reports' pages.

Also in March, the critic MARIO PRAZ died at the age of 85. Born at Rome in 1896, he was educated at the Universities of Rome and Florence. Between 1923 and 1934 he lived in England, becoming in 1932 Professor of Italian Studies at Manchester University. In 1934 he was elected to the Chair of English Literature at Rome University, a post which he occupied until 1966. Praz was a brilliant and imaginative scholar with a lucid and penetrating style. His best-known book, which retains much of the power it had when it was first published in 1933, is The Romantic Agony. Edmund Wilson, recommending the work of Praz many years ago, said, 'Signor Praz, so immensely well-read, is, though a professor, essentially unacademic in the ordinary sense of the word.' In fact, Praz is profoundly academic in the proper sense of the word-though the point Wilson was making reflects on the semantic degradation of the term 'academic'.

On 20 April the American poet and playwright ARCHIBALD MacLEISH died. He was 89. MacLeish was a figure of great public importance, and the valuation of his literary work has been in many ways complicated by his literature-related successes. He attracted praise and blame often for the wrong reasons.

Born in Illinois in 1892, he studied at Yale, where-as well as proving a successful sportsman-he edited the Literary Magazine. He went on to Harvard Law School, saw service in the First World War, and published his first book of verse. In 1923 he expatriated himself to France and assimilated the influences that were strong there at the time, including the work of Eliot and the French Symbolists. (His interest in Ezra Pound was to prove providential-he helped to secure his release from detention after the Second World War.) Some of his best work dates from the early period-especially 'You, Andrew Marvell' and 'The Hamlet of A. MacLeish'. With his return to the United States and the Great Depression, his verse became more clearly 'socially committed'. He was associated with Franklin Roosevelt's administration and his civic and political activities weighed heavily on his imaginative work. His technical experiments-which were not notably successful-give evidence of his dissatisfaction with the considerable technical facility he had acquired but, at the same time, the failure of a radical originality that might have helped him to transcend his sense of limitation. His most famous later work was the play J.B., a dramatization of the Job story in modern terms. It was controversial. At least one generation of schoolchildren experienced it as a set text-many with sinking hearts. The gap that separates 'You, Andrew Marvell' and J.B. is immense.

The American immigration authorities have used their powers of exclusion for political reasons to bring pressure against black South African university professors living in exile and teaching in the United States, Index on Censorship reports (19 May, DC 5). Both professors are poets. They are opposed to apartheid. COSMO PIETERSE, who left the United States temporarily, has been permanently barred from re-entry. The other, DENNIS BRUTUS, is currently undergoing deportation proceedings. Both are specialists in African literature with positions at the University of Ohio at Athens and Northwestern University in Illinois, respectively.

Writing in April in the Herald Tribune, Anthony Lewis reported that one aspect of military rule in the Israeli-occupied territories of the West Bank and Gaza was the existence of an index of forbidden books. This is perhaps not surprising, in itself; but what struck Lewis particularly was that the index was not published (or at any rate not available for inspection) and that it included such subversive texts as The Merchant of Venice, 1984, Dryden's poems, and other books. The legislation under which the censorship works is a residue of the British Defence Emergency Regulations of 1945 for mandatory Palestine, which Israel never repealed.

A pioneering work of scholarship on Left-wing writing has just appeared in the form of Seven Writers of the English Left -a bibliography of literature and politics, 1916-1980, edited by Alan Munton and Alan Young. The hundreds of entries cover all primary material relating to Edgell Rickword, Alick West, Ralph Bates, Ralph Fox, Edward Upward, Rex Warner and Christopher Caudwell. Each writer is given a concise but highly informative introduction, and the bibliography includes author, periodical and title indexes. The book forms a valuable basis for future studies of Left literature and is published by Garland Publishing, Inc., 136 Madison Avenue, New York, N.Y., 10016, USA.

BERNARD LAFOURCADE, who was responsible for the French translation of Wyndham Lewis's Tarr and Revenge for Love, has now produced, with the collaboration of Odette Bornand and Pierrette Lafourcade, a version of The Wild Body. The new volume (Le Corps Sauvage, published by L'Age d'Homme) is of exceptional interest for the English reader, for it contains, in addition to Le Corps Sauvage itself, which forms Part I, an extremely interesting Part II which Lafourcade calls L'Archéologie du Corps Sauvage. This second part consists of a collection of texts by Wyndham Lewis from the period 1909-1911 which collectively throw light not only on the origins of The Wild Body itself but, more generally, on the development of Lewis's mind at this formative period. These texts include not only French versions of Unlucky for Pringle and other matter made available to the English reader in 1973 by C. J. Fox and published by the Vision Press, but (in English with parallel French versions) the remarkable early poem, 'Grignolles' and-a real find-Lewis's Breton diary which has hitherto lain unpublished in the library at Cornell. These seven pages should be read by anyone interested in Lewis's work. Consisting of paragraphs jotted down from day to day as Lewis travelled around, they have an extraordinary freshness and contain many of the elements sorted out at length in Lewis's later work-besides, of course, having for the bibliophile the attractions of a first printing. (CHS)

Seventeen years after the publication of his last collection, Gli Strumenti Humani, the Italian poet Vittorio Sereni has published two new volumes. Stelle variabile (Garzanti), a fourth book of poems, reaffirms his position as one of Italy's foremost poets of this century, perhaps her most important living poet since the death of Montale. The book includes an extended work in seven parts called 'Un posto di vacanza' which forms something of a poetic testament, and is his most ambitious poem to date. Il Musi-cante di Saint-Merry (Einaudi) is a volume of selected translations including versions of poems by Apollinaire, William Carlos Williams, Char and Pound, as well as a prose-poem by Camus, and passages from Corneille's L'illusion comique. Vittorio Sereni has recently accepted an invitation to appear at the Fifth Cambridge Poetry Festival which will be held from 15 to 18 April 1983.

THOMAS MERTON's literary essays are now available in Britain from Sheldon Press at £30.00. The price is not unreasonable for a volume of the extent (352 pages) and importance of this one to the increasing number of readers drawn to Merton's work. His literary essays are an integral part of his wider concerns, and this massive volume brings together commentaries on Blake, Joyce, Pasternak, Faulkner, Camus, Nabokov, and the Latin American poets who meant so much to him. Sheldon Press have recently issued Merton's Collected Poems in paperback at £9.95 (the book runs to 1054 pages).

The ESSEX FESTIVAL OF CONTEMPORARY ARTS programme has reached us, and the signs are that it will be an interesting event. It takes place from 27 to 31 October, and full details are available from Joseph Allard, Department of Literature, Essex University, Colchester. The poets invited include Charles Tomlin-son, Norman MacCaig, Edwin Morgan, Michael Hamburger, Tony Curtis, Gary Snyder and Wendell Berry. 'Workshop sessions' are promised, and discussions of 'literary translation'-though no non-English poets are listed among the participants. Fiction, drama & mime, music and the visual arts are also featured in the festival, but the central concern-judging from the number of poets scheduled to appear-is poetry.

By contrast, the LANCASTER LITERATURE FESTIVAL-'Writing '82', the fifth such festival which took place in late April and early May-looked rather predictable. Adrian Mitchell, Brian Patten and other familiar voices sounded; though the festival had certain themes-censorship among them-there was limited provision for serious discussion. Censorship is much in the air-it is a theme of the 1982 Edinburgh Festival as well.

For many years now a small independent American press run by James L. Weil, THE ELIZABETH PRESS, has been producing extremely attractive and valuable books, including translations of Saba and other Italian writers, collections of poems and the like. We have received what Mr Weil calls 'our valedictory volume', a characteristically handsome production-an essay by Felix Stefanile entitled 'The Imagination of the Amateur'. It is one of Stefanile's most elegant and beguiling pieces-and, like so much of his work, it is also penetrating. It is hard for me to resist extensive quotation from it-its ironies build with such civility that the editor is seduced into a sense of the reality of the literary magazine world in a way he seldom allows himself to be. 'If Donne's "letters" to the Countess of Bedford were theoretically private,' Stefanile writes, 'then they were so in the same sense that today's Little Magazine is theoretically public. In each condition, Fame is cautiously ignored, and yet all gossip turns around her; and though Ambition is denied, the author's humility is a flirtation of the most uncommon sort, based upon attractive ostentations of learning, care, stylistic posture, and the sharing of the secrets of civilization. Nobody seriously believes that gentlemen of the eighteenth century composed their epistles only for friends and patrons (and not for posterity) any more than we give serious credence to the legend that our Little Magazine editors of today are not concerned with subscriptions. Horace would have been the most disappointed man in all of Rome, had Maecenas not been the most social.' Though Stefanile's subject is the American Little Magazine, his wisdom-that of long editorial experience -is exportable. I do the essay an injustice by extracting passages from it, but in the hope that some readers will want to pursue it further (orders can be sent to Small Press Distribution Inc., 1784 Shattuck Avenue, Berkeley, CA 94709 USA), I will extract two more passages.

'Unfortunately, money enters into the problem as well. Aside from the popular American confusion of success with money (of which Alfred North Whitehead has written so wittily), the dollar has gone far towards environmentalizing art here; and no one is so desperately aware of this intrinsic factor upon taste as the poet. The two-by-four modular poem, the poem written slot-size for the filler column, set up for print so as to be readily interchangeable in terms of format, literally unhinged from one section and clapped on to another section as the need may arise. Accepted as much for the size as for the sense, this "industrialized" modern poem (I insist we call the process by no other name) is a manufactured commodity serving the same need esthetically as the paper cup-to be used once, and then thrown away. This probably has had as much to do with the popular aversion to real poetic skill as any conspiracy of secondary-school teachers to teaching Longfellow or "tough-guy" scientists communicating Communication.' Stefanile's essay concludes with this paragraph: 'The written fates of the modern age are two: Literacy and Literature. The former is apt and handy and ripe in her proportions, promising us the rewards of the just and a tribe of millionaires. The latter is retiring and shy and a bit confused for the passion, with the face of that farthest star, our own aspiration. As usual, the poet tells us which of the two beautiful women to love.'

Goodbye Mr Weil. The books that the Elizabeth Press published will, I believe, be with us for a long time yet.

In March 1982 the poetry magazine ARGO merged with DELTA, a magazine founded almost thirty years ago by Peter Redgrove. The new magazine bears the newer title, Argo, and the editor, Hilary Davies (inquiries to Old Fire Station, 40 George Street, Oxford OX1 2AQ), declares: 'This fusion is yet another example of what Argo has to offer to readers of contemporary poetry in England, America and Israel.' Argo has had some interesting contributions from established and emerging writers; it has carried reviews and assessments, too. If the lines drawn so far tend to reflect the geographical placement of its contributing editors-a kind of juxtaposition of provincialisms-it is widening beyond that base. For the time being, the very juxtaposition has its obvious interest.

BEL LIVE POETS has just launched a new series of audio-cassettes of live poetry readings. The first on the list are Dannie Abse and Jeffrey Wainwright, and from now on two new names will appear every two months (Frances Horowitz and Jeremy Hooker are next). The project is an interesting one. It makes the spoken element in poetry available to a wide audience, which at the moment is not as wide as it could be-despite the fact that the spoken poem, especially in the poet's own voice, can contribute to the printed word. These tapes have the additional attraction of having been made at performances rather than in studio, with-consequently-rather more immediacy than many spoken recordings.

As well as the readings, each cassette includes a ten-minute interview with the poet and, on the insert, a brief biography and bibliography. Details are available from Bel Productions Ltd (PN), 28 Clifton Road, Winchester, Hampshire. (See the advertisement elsewhere in this issue.)

A new monthly magazine of poetry, short stories and related material, BALCONY, is being set up in Dewsbury. The editor, A. P. Wilson (The Upper Flat, 30 West Park Street, Dewsbury, West Yorkshire WF13 4LD) invites submissions in verse and prose (the latter not to exceed 1500 words). The first issue will appear in early July. Further particulars are available from the editor.

Michael Abbott, who edits the lively magazine THE PRESENT TENSE from Bristol, is the editor of a new poetry imprint: REDCLIFFE POETRY (14 Dowry Square, Bristol BS8 4SH). The first volume is projected for 1983. The imprint will be launched with a national poetry competition. The press release declares: 'Redcliffe Poetry will concentrate on providing a quality outlet for new, young writers with a fresh and serious commitment to the craft of poetry.' Full details of the competition will be announced shortly.

John Fuller's SYCAMORE PRESS (4 Benson Place, Oxford) has relapsed into publishing with three interesting new titles: James Fenton's Dead Sóldiers (£1.00), Poems for Roy Fuller on his seventieth birthday (£1.50) and A Florilegium for John Florio (£1.50). The booklets have the characteristic elegance of Sycamore productions, including the slightly uneven inking that proves the work was done on a venerable hand-press. The Fenton poem is the most interesting of these, but the poems for Roy Fuller-including one by Anthony Powell, a real curiosity-call general attention to an anniversary worth celebrating.

This item is taken from PN Review 28, Volume 9 Number 2, November - December 1982.

Readers are asked to send a note of any misprints or mistakes that they spot in this item to
Searching, please wait... animated waiting image