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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 16, Volume 7 Number 2, November - December 1980.

News & Notes
The death of JEAN-PAUL SARTRE was widely commented in the press, though only the New Statesman offered a serious, extended assessment of the range and status of his work. In Britain, the popular image of him is doubtless that of the founder of post-World War II 'Existentialism', an author of novels and plays whose characters pursued (or, more often, failed to pursue) free but curiously loveless and joyless lives, and a passionate but inconsistent defender of human rights.

In her study Sartre (1953) Iris Murdoch characterised him as a 'Romantic Rationalist'. Certainly, Sartre's passionate and obsessive enquiry into the conditions of human freedom outKanted Kant in its rationalist distrust of the merely natural or instinctive in human affairs. An empiricist ethical philosopher, such as David Hume, might have applauded Sartre's humanism but abhorred the low esteem in which he held untutored human nature. Dickens would have found Sartre's novels quite unreadable, his characters anti-human,

Yet Sartre's distinctive contribution to modern letters may be seen eventually to be neither his novels, plays or poems nor even his philosophical studies. Sartre's literary criticism, especially his studies of Baudelaire (1947), Genet (1952), Flaubert (1971-2), and the three volumes of Situations (1947-9) are becoming increasingly valued as perhaps the richest quarry for understanding Sartre's legacy to modern thought.

In her Sartre's Theory of Literature (published last year by the Modern Humanities Research Association, price £12.00) Christina Howells has demonstrated how Sartre's view of the role and status of art has changed during the past thirty years. For Sartre the phenomenologist, imagination is constitutive of the world as we know it and, therefore, art becomes essential in the promotion of human understanding, political change, and the creation of human liberty. Dr Howells's finely-argued study shows too that Sartre had come to abandon his original rigid distinction between 'pure' and 'committed' art, although he never changed his unfavourable views about those artists, including the surrealists, who are irresponsible about language or who lose faith in its humanizing capacities. The final chapter of Sartre's Theory of Literature-on his ideas about language-is particularly significant in helping us to view Sartre from new angles. From these perspectives he becomes more muddled perhaps (Dr Howells is no mere acolyte) but he is more humane and decidedly more heroically human. (AY)

ARMANDO F. VALLADARES PEREZ, the Cuban poet, has been adopted by Amnesty International as a 'Prisoner of Conscience'. Valladares, born in 1937, was an established writer at the time of the Cuban Revolution. He has spent almost two decades in a succession of prisons and hospitals in Cuba as the result of his personal and religious convictions-according to Amnesty, the sole causes of his detention. Amnesty invite readers to write courteously-worded letters appealing for the release of this man to Comandante Fidel Castro Ruz, Presidente del Consejo de Estado y del Consejo de Ministros, La Habana, Republica de Cuba.

We were sorry to receive news that OMENS poetry magazine will cease publication with Volume 9 Number 1. The reasons adduced are the rise in the cost of printing (they report 80% in three years) and a decline in public interest. Omens was very much a magazine that belonged to its contributors: it gave the impression of being open, uneven, often interesting. It will be missed most by young poets who found in it a first outlet for their work.

News has reached us of the birth of a new magazine called COLLABORATIONS (Vanburgh College, University of York, Heslington, York YO1 5DD). Subscription for four issues is £4.00. Collaborations will be edited by R. L. Aczel and will aim to 'provide a forum for the integration of current ideas concerning the state and direction of society. Our intention is to encourage the broad and critical awareness vital in accompanying the rapidity of change society is now experiencing.' The first issue concentrates on 'English Studies', with essays on Heaney, TV drama, music and criticism. Contributors include Wilfrid Mellors, David Holbrook and others. The editor is keen to encourage debate. He seems to conceive of collaboration as a form of intellectual dialectics. It will be interesting to see whether his rather general ambitions achieve particular success.

The Spring 1980 issue of HUDSON REVIEW (65 East 55th Street, New York, N. Y. 10022) includes an excellent essay-memoir by Charles Tomlinson, 'Dove sta memoria'.

M. Jacques Darras of the Universite de Picardie, 3 rue Laennec, 80000 Amiens, France, has sent us copies of the journal IN'HUI number 9 (20 frs). It is devoted to contemporary American and British women poets and is presented in English and French. The selection is serious and wide-ranging.

It is not often that a full-length unpublished play by a dead poet is discovered, but David Arkell, whose indefatigable researches into the life and work of JULES LAFORGUE have turned up so much already, is now rewarded with the discovery of Laforgue's TESSA in the Houghton Library, Harvard.

The play is now printed for the first time in a special Laforgue number of the Revue des Sciences Humaines. Laforgue's first known work, Tessa was written when he was sixteen or seventeen, while still attending or just after he left the famous Lycée Condorcet, The fragile manuscript, bearing the mention 'Batignolles 1877'-the Paris district where Laforgue was living with his family at the time-has been painstakingly deciphered by Jean-Louis Debauve, one of the editors of a new complete edition of Laforgue shortly to appear. Not the least of its mysteries is that it includes corrections by an unknown hand, perhaps the poet's father or a schoolmaster.

The Revue and its guest editor Philippe Bonnefis are to be congratulated for publishing this special number. It runs to over 150 pages and includes previously unpublished poems and prose as well as Tessa, the cornerstone of the issue. It may be obtained from: Universite de Lille III, Domaine Universite Litteraire et Juridique, S. P. 18-59650 Villeneuve-d'Ascq, France, at a cost (including postage to Britain) of 45 frs.

Among developments in poetry publishing in Britain at this time, BLOODAXE BOOKS is one of the most exciting. Publishing from 1 North Jesmond Avenue, Jesmond, Newcastle upon Tyne, it has to its credit a number of valuable publications. Though its chief commitment is to work from the North-East of England-by new and established writers-its range is wide; the publications are attractively produced, some with illustrations. The editors seem keen to find books which escape from the classification of 'slim volume'-not that the books are not, for the most part, slim, but that they include sequences, groups of poems, narratives. Bloodaxe are not, in short, just another out-let for collections of lyrics. Bloodaxe are not limiting themselves in time. One recent and worth-while publication is Ken Robinson's selection of JOHN OLDHAM, to whom Dryden addressed his superb elegy, 'Farewel, too little and too lately known'. Old-ham himself wrote a noble elegy to his friend John Wilmot, Earl of Rochester, the threehundredth anniversary of whose death in July was hardly noted.

Ambitious too was Bloodaxe Books' decision to issue the new LP record of BASIL BUNTING reading BRIGGFLATTS, a gesture with which they marked the poet's eightieth birthday. The recording includes Scarlatti's sonata in B minor, a structural model of the poem. The production (including the design of the record sleeve) is attractive: a suitable celebration for a fine poet. (£4.50 + 60p p&p; $12.45 + $3.10 p&p-available directly from Bloodaxe Books.)

POETRY INFORMATION (Galloping Dog Press, 3 Otterburn Terrace, Newcastle upon Tyne NE2 3AP) too, has marked Basil Bunting's eightieth birthday with a special issue, including essays, interviews, celebratory poems, bibliography, etc. (£1.00+ 30p p&p).

The Summer 1980 issue of POETRY WALES is a strong one. It includes Gillian Clarke's radio poem 'Letter from a Far Country'; Richard Poole's long poem 'Marriage Lines'; Andrew Waterman controversially 'Looking back over the "Poetic" Seventies'; Neil Powell's essay 'Trusting on the Language'; new poetry and translations of young Welsh poets. Subscriptions (£5.00 for four numbers) to Cary Archard, Poetry Wales, 56 Parcau Avenue, Bridgend, Mid-glamorgan.

The prize-winning novelists PENELOPE FITZGERALD and PENELOPE LIVELY spoke at the Writers' Weekend (2-3 May) sponsored by the Extramural Department, University of Dundee. Penelope Fitzgerald, whose Offshore won the 1979 Booker Prize, talked on 'How a Writer Gets Started' ; Penelope Lively, whose The Treasures of Time won the Arts Council prize earlier this year spoke on 'The Writer as Reader'.

The WRITERS' WEEK at St Andrews organized by the Crawford Centre for the Arts, postponed from April, will take place between October 25 and November 1. Visiting writers will include Norman MacCaig and Robert Garioch.

The National Book League Scotland are adding to their series of WRITERS IN BRIEF booklets by Andrew Greig, James Kelman, Ivor Cutler and Val Warner (all at 25p). Earlier booklets are still available, too, from NBL Scotland, 15A Lynedoch Street, Glasgow G3 6EF.

DONALD JUSTICE received a Pulitzer Prize for his Selected Poems, published in Britain by Anvil Press Poetry (£3.50). Recognition in Britain has come relatively late for Justice whose work has hitherto been known mainly in anthologies. The Anvil collection is a timely introduction to a wide range of his work.

Anthony Hecht has written: 'Many admiring poets and a few perceptive critics . . . have paid careful, even studious attention to Donald Justice's poetic skill. . . . He is . . . the supreme heir of Wallace Stevens.' Born in Florida in 1925, Justice has held various teaching posts in the United States. Currently he directs the Writers Workshop at the University of Iowa.

MICHAEL ONDAATJE has received the Governor General's Award in Canada for Rat Jelly & Other Poems which Marion Boyars Publishers Ltd. issued in January. In September the same firm will publish Ondaatje's The Collected Works of Billy the Kid. Born in Ceylon, Ondaatje has lived in Canada for the last eighteen years.

British Literary journalists have been registering with great excitement a rash of summer prizes and the promise of bigger and better awards to come. Those who express alarm at the size and nature of some of the new awards are as yet in the minority.

Of the prizes administered by the Society of Authors, this year's CHOLMONDELEY AWARDS 'made on consideration of a poet's work as a whole and in recognition of his contribution to Poetry' (with a capital 'p') went to George Barker, Roy Fuller and Terence Tiller. The award is described as 'non-competitive'. The ERIC GREGORY AWARD (divided unequally between four poets) went to Robert Minhinnick from Wales, Michael Hulse from Staffordshire, Blake Morrison, and Medbh McGuckian from Northern Ireland. All four are, according to the Press release, 'struggling for recognition'. A SOMERSET MAUGHAM AWARD went to Christopher Reid. Peter Porter received a Society of Authors TRAVELLING SCHOLARSHIP of £750.

The ARVON FOUNDATION POETRY COMPETITION 1980 sells itself as 'The largest prize ever offered for poetry in Great Britain'. This Texan boast is backed up by a demand that each aspirant invest £1.50 with his hopes-£1.50 per poem! The judges, we were astonished to learn, will be Charles Causley, Seamus Heaney, Ted Hughes and Philip Larkin. Apart from Larkin, the other judges will all lead a poetry workshop with the winners. This will be televised and transmitted on The South Bank Show. Certainly the Arvon Foundation is getting publicity mileage out of the exercise. The first prize: £5000. Everyone has a hand in it, from the Observer down. Like vanity publishing, it is a form of oblique fundraising (the entry fee discriminates, to say the least, against the poor and vain)-the difference being that the ultimate beneficiary is not corrupt or cynical in his ends, only-some would say-in the means he uses to attain them.

Each competition strives to be bigger and better than the last. We remember the fanfare that greeted the first £1000 prize-which also had a media tie-in. Were it the case that the writing of poetry was being encouraged, there would be no objection. What is in fact being encouraged is the composition of 'prize poems'. The declared motive behind this fund-raising is fatuous and implausible: people will take poetry more seriously if there's lots of money in writing the stuff. Poetry Contests look like being the established gimmick of the 1980s.

More modest and probably more creditable are two other competitions. NEW POETRY and the ROYAL SHEFFIELD INSTITUTION FOR THE BLIND are running national contests. Details of the New Poetry competition are available from 2 Culham Court, Granville Road, London N4 4JB. The organisers acknowledge the financial assistance of Marks & Spencer Ltd. Details of the Royal Sheffield Institution for the Blind competition are available from: 'National Poetry Competition', Administrator, RSIB, 5 Mappin Street, Sheffield S1 4DT.

One of our correspondents reports that recently, after a death in the family, he received official registration of Grave Space No. L5/25 (signed) P. Chalmers, Arts and Recreation Officer. This is taking Sylvia Plath's 'Dying is an art' a bit too far.

When Antony Alpers published his second biography of KATHERINE MANSFIELD in twenty-five years, it was hailed as a unique event. He took advantage of new material in American universities to get a second bite of the cherry.

Already in 1954 he'd had the advantage of talking to several of Mansfield's friends, but even with the help of the fascinatingly ambivalent Ida Baker he was still unable to identify the famous flat in Grays Inn Road where Murry and Mansfield lived together. Nor has he been able to do so now in this second book, even though he had Katherine's husband-of-a-day George Bowden to advise him.

Let us, then, advance our own discovery: the notorious '69 Clovelly Mansions', where Wig and Bogey lived for four hectic months of 1912, was never demolished as once supposed -it simply metamorphosed into the present '19 Churston Mansions'. In fact, after a prolonged session with the rate-books, we knocked on the door in question. Opened by a surprised but delighted couple, it revealed itself to be indeed the 'Tigers' Lair', where M and M not only became lovers but also co-editors of the avant-garde review Rhythm.

A charming feature of those old rate books, by the way, is that Katherine gave her name as 'Katerina'-a reminder of the pre-war Russian ballet craze, when 'advanced' ladies were all slightly Slav, even to the rate-man. (DA)

This item is taken from PN Review 16, Volume 7 Number 2, November - December 1980.



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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