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Readers are asked to send a note of any misprints or mistakes that they spot in this item to editor@pnreview.co.uk

This item is taken from PN Review 17, Volume 7 Number 3, January - February 1981.

News & Notes
JAMES WRIGHT, the American poet, died on 25 March of this year. The Hudson Review print six of his last poems in their summer issue. Wright's main publisher was Wesleyan University Press. In 1971 they issued a generous Collected Poems. Alan Williamson wrote of his work in 1973, 'Wright's themes have remained remarkably constant, from his earliest formalist work. There is the "profound poetry of the poor and the dead"-to quote Stevens-and of the outcast. . . . There is what I can only call a strength of misery in love; and an equally strong desire to transcend the bodily self into conditions of delicacy intuited from animals, stones, dreams. Like Goethe, Wright is drawn towards a double transcendence, pure creature and pure spirit; but oddly, his commitment to a style centered on bodily states makes his account of this tension one of the most precise and interesting in existence.' Wright was very much a poet of his own place, of 'his native southeastern Ohio', an element which sets his work apart from much of that produced by other writers in his generation (a generation that includes Merwin, Snyder, Kinnell and Bly).

One of the poems printed in Hudson Review is a sonnet to Giuseppe Belli, that great dialect sonnetteer whose work has been given renewed currency in English (and Edinburgh Scots) by the efforts of Anthony Burgess and (more powerfully) of Robert Garioch. Wright's sonnet, entitled 'Reading a 1979 Inscription on Belli's Monument', recalls a poet 'unhappy a century ago' who 'Won from the world his fashionable stone' which one of 'The latest Romans' has inscribed thus:


One of them bravely climbed his pedestal
And sprayed a scarlet MERDA on his shawl.
This afternoon I pray his hidden grave
Lies nameless somewhere in the hills, while rain
Fusses and frets to rinse away the stain.
Rain might erase when marble cannot save.


We were sad to learn of the death of the well-known Czech poet VLADIMIR HOLAN. He was born in Prague in 1905. His poetry was shocked into maturity by the Nazi occupation of Czechoslovakia. After the war, his enthusiasm for the new regime was rewarded by systematic neglect between 1948 and 1963 (he was accused of 'decadent formalism'). In 1963 his work came back into favour and was widely published. Some felt that he wrote 'too much'. Certainly his outstanding work was written in the dark time of his internal exile in Prague. He translated French, German and Russian poetry. His work gives clear evidence of his debt to T. S. Eliot. There is a spiritual (though not a conventionally religious) dimension to his work. Though his poetic world, in the words of his English translator Ian Milner, is characteristically 'dark, gloomy, full of strange menace or mysterious presences', the variety of tone and form within that world is considerable, the development from the early formal work through the work of his maturity is impressive, and the evolution of his themes and commitments-the way his ideas were adjusted by his life experience-is to some degree representative of that of other fine poets of his generation. Penguin issued his Selected Poems in 1971.

The death of C. P. SNOW earlier this year was a sad event for the world of poetry as for the world of fiction and journalism. In essays and reviews, Lord Snow was a lucid and consistent advocate of poets, British and foreign, whose work he valued. In the early 1970s he wrote letters to the press urging the translation and dissemination of more work from Eastern European literatures and drawing attention to the generally poor record of British publishing in those areas. An increase in communication between writers and cultures, he believed, apart from the good it would bring by way of understanding, would help to ensure the freedom of the writer within any society or system.

The first issue of STONECHAT magazine will appear this autumn. 'Its primary aim,' Jon Flint writes, 'is to maintain breadth of scope: there will be articles on music and science as well as literature. However, the magazine's main emphasis will be contemporary poetry. It is based in Cambridge where it may be purchased-postal orders should be addressed to Magdalene College. Contributors include Harry Guest, John Holloway and Peter Jay.' The editor's expressed policy is close to that announced by COLLABORATIONS (in PNR 16 'News & Notes'). Here as in the Federal Republic of Germany literary journals seem to be ambitious to break down 'specialist' barriers in an attempt to effect some form of-to borrow the phrase of one German editor-'radical re-integration'. So long as this aim does not become an excuse for publishing specialist academic articles from different disciplines between the same covers but rather pursues openness and dialogue, it is a commendable one. The possibility that the non-specialist common reader might be re-admitted to the world of 'literary periodicals' is an excellent one, though that German editor's word 're-integration' is not perhaps a happy omen. STONECHAT will not, we have every confidence, be so ponderous.

A phenomenon which should not pass unremarked is the rather spectacular regeneration-after eight years' absence-of the American journal KENYON REVIEW (Kenyon College, Gambier, Ohio 43022). In the Winter of 1979 it came back to life,and since then it has followed a fascinating course, exemplifying how an imaginative editorial policy can popularize, without serious damage to editorial standards, a literary journal, helping to strengthen the bridge between creative, critical and scholarly work. Contributors have included-as well as lesser-known talent-Solzhenitsyn, Beckett, William Gass, George Steiner, Marquez, etc. Two editors, RONALD SHARP and FREDERICK TURNER, are responsible for this phoenix. They declare: 'We intend to broaden the definition of literature, restoring it to its position as the meeting place for scientific, artistic, philosophical, and critical writing. . . . After a period of cultural fragmentation and cynicism, we want to serve as a nucleus for a cultural renaissance.' Such an ambition is superbly arrogant and refreshingly candid. We can report, at least, that the new-style KENYON REVIEW is well designed, the articles are readable and stimulating, and though the bias may seem to be 'critical', there is much space given to creative work. Certainly the 'New Criticism' of the old Kenyon Review has vanished. It remains to be seen if, behind the ebullience and excitement of the new venture, there is a policy beyond strong enthusiasm and a diverse commitment to openness-in short, whether the venture is to prove truly catholic or merely eclectic. In any case, while a clear impression of its general orientation emerges, it is an interesting read.

The political crises in South Africa have been reflected in the ebullition of new writing-Black, Coloured, Indian, Afrikaans and English-that marked the seventies. This literary awakening has been fostered by a cluster of avant-garde publishing houses (Ravan, Bateleur, Renoster, David Philips, Ad Donker) and the numberless 'little reviews' that have sprung up in the last ten years. Following such recent multiracial literary magazines as Staffrider and Heresy, a substantial new bi-monthly with over a hundred pages of text, besides illustrations, was launched in Johannesburg in September.

Taking a leaf from Roy Campbell's famous epigram on South African writers, the new magazine calls itself THE BLOODY HORSE. According to the prospectus it will be 'a mixture of debate, creative writing, reviews, photography and art' and make a strong stand against censorship. The editorial board, headed by the poet Patrick Cullinan, includes Ampie Coetzee, who recently edited a selection of the poems of the Afrikaans poet Breyten Breytenbach (currently serving a ten-year prison sentence under the Terrorism Act). Others are Laurence Herber and Lionel Abrahams. The latter is a veteran editor and publisher whose magazine, The Purple Renoster, kept the cultural flag flying almost single-handedly during the harassed fifties and sixties in South Africa. He published the first of the new Black urban poets, Oswald Mtshali, while his own autobiographical novel, The Celibacy of Felix Greenbaum, though published only in South Africa, is already a classic there.

While open to all English, Afrikaans and Black writers, the aim is to set 'high standards of quality and relevance'-presumably as a corrective to the widely-distributed Staffrider, which sees itself as a vehicle of 'protest' writing and dismisses literary standards as 'elitist'. The two magazines should do good to each other.

The Bloody Horse's address is: P.O. Box 6690, Johannesburg, 2000, South Africa.

LODESTONE, the Small Press Distributors (73 Robertson Street, Glasgow G2 8QD) have recently released the first two volumes of a fascinating and beautifully produced series of books issued by the distinguished California press, BLACK SPARROW. This is the ambitious COMPLETE CORRESPONDENCE between CHARLES OLSON and ROBERT CREELEY, edited with characteristic tact by George F. Butterick whose extensive work on Olson is well known.

The correspondence began before Olson had published his 'Projective Verse' essay, before he had embarked on Maximus, back in 1950 when he was principally known for his fine (some would say finest) book-about Melville, and the centrality of his imagination-Call Me Ishmael. There are, Butterick tells us, 'roughly one thousand surviving pieces of correspondence in all, with Creeley outwriting Olson at a rate of three to one'. The correspondence ran to 1 January 1970, days before Olson's death. When complete, the series will prove a valuable index to the development of two interesting minds and to the evolution of that work still undervalued in Britain, the Maximus Poems. The first two volumes (£4.50 each paperback, £11.00 each cased) are available from Lodestone, as are other Black Sparrow titles including Henry Miller's Notes on 'Aaron's Rod', and Ekbert Fass's Ted Hughes: The Unaccommodated Universe.

The MENARD PRESS have issued their first comprehensive catalogue and stock-list (available from 23 Fitzwarren Gardens, Upper Holloway, London N19 3TR). The director of the press, Anthony Rudolf, after long experience as a magazine editor (most recently with European Judaism) treats the prospective buyer as one likely to be interested in all or many of Menard's books, and certainly the Menard list has a strong coherence (not based on social coterie but on certain positive thematic concerns) which is lacking from the work of many other small presses. Among Menard's notable publications are books by F. T. Prince, Gabriel Josipovici, George Buchanan and Keith Bosley. Also valuable has been Menard's assiduous pursuit of poetry and prose in translation-hardly surprising when the chief editor is a distinguished translator from the French and the Russian. Menard's catalogue/stocklist describes a remarkably interesting small press achievement. Many of the books are 'chapbooks' or pamphlets, so that when a new consignment arrives it is rather like receiving a generous magazine in which the items have been separately (and attractively) bound. Not that all Menard publications are small: the books are handsomely designed and produced. It is to be hoped that new readers will discover Menard by means of the new catalogue.

Editions Plasma (41 rue Saint-Honoré, 75001 Paris) have sent us BENJAMIN FONDANE's Le mal des fantômes, with prefaces by David Gascoyne and Patrice Repusseau. David Gascoyne contributed translations of Fondane to PNR 12 and we plan to include further material relating to Fondane and Cioran, Fondane and Chestov (whose disciple he was for a time). Le mal des fantômes is an extensive collection of his verse, part of the oeuvre which Fondane especially valued but which has hitherto been neglected. Repusseau characterises the verse: 'Lisible, accessible d'emblée, et franc comme une poignée de main bien vertébrée.'

David Gascoyne's own Early Poems have recently been issued in an attractive edition, with Barry Burman's drawings, by The Greville Press, Emscote Lawn, Warwick.

We have received A HAND AND FLOWER ANTHOLOGY, compiled by Barry Newport, 'poems and fables commemorating Erica Marx and The Hand and Flower Press'. It is a fitting tribute to an imprint which produced important work between 1940 and 1964. Hand and Flower was a prototype 'little press', an admirable example of the place and potential of small independent houses in a literary world even then vexed by the uncommercial nature of new poetry and fiction. To begin with, Erica Marx's interest was in finely printed and expensive books for bibliophiles. Around 1950, the editor of this anthology tells us, she 'dedicated herself to promoting new writers, issuing poetry, novels and short stories in commercially printed editions' -and it is for this that the general reader will remember the Press. The editor hopes that the anthology will 'reflect the personality behind the Hand and Flower Press'-the lady who died eleven years ago-and indeed his judicious selection, and the fine production of the anthology, manage to do just that. Here is work by Thomas Blackburn, Charles Causley, Michael Hamburger, Paul Roche, Charles Tomlinson and many others. There is also a valuable checklist of publications. The anthology is available from 16 Reeds Avenue, Earley, Reading RG6 2SR.

Heath Library, Keats Grove, London NW 3, will present an exhibition of Post-War East European Poetry and a month of readings in October. The schedule is a promising one:

October 3 Marina Tsvetayeva (Elaine Feinstein)
Osip Mandelstam (James Greene)
October 10 Vladimir Holan (George Theiner)
Tadeusz Rozewicz (Adam Czerniawski)
October 17 Zbigniew Herbert (A. Alvarez)
Jerzy Ficowski (Keith Bosley)
October 31 Paul Celan (Michael Hamburger)

A list of current English translations is available from the library and Keats House. The readings begin on Friday evenings at 7.30. The admition fee is £1.00 at the door. The exhibition is dedicated to the late Vladimir Holan. 'Freedom is kin to voluntary poverty.'

The headline in The Times (14 August) 'Polish writers demand end of censorship'-as was intended-produced the Pavlovian response of indignation: we read on. Not only Catholics but some communist writers, 'all members of the official Writers' Association', have been active, the latter publishing an independent document which declares: 'It is a humiliation that a writer now has to wait two years to have his book published, whereas twenty years ago the waiting period was six months.' Yet, The Times explains, 'They are not dissidents and disapprove of underground publications.' All the same, publication delays are 'obstructions to cultural freedom'. The Times does not explain whether this delay in publishing is the result of shortages of paper (which is not unlikely), economic priorities, or evil plotting by bureaucrats. If one can risk a comparison with Britain, where such 'censorship' has been endemic for years in the publication of fiction and verse, the explanation lies close to the surface: the 'right' to publish before the ink is dry belongs only to journalists; other folk, unless they have a following (a 'market') must join a queue, go 'underground' to the small presses, or publish themselves. Patience or samizdat. Besides, why are writers in such a hurry?

We wish we were better informed. . . .

This item is taken from PN Review 17, Volume 7 Number 3, January - February 1981.



Readers are asked to send a note of any misprints or mistakes that they spot in this item to editor@pnreview.co.uk
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