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This article is taken from PN Review 12, Volume 6 Number 4, March - April 1980.

Rejoinder to Donald Davie Michael Hamburger
1. REJOINDER TO DONALD DAVIE
Michael Hamburger

IN MY brief contribution to the Cambridge Poetry Festival discussion called "Forms and Principles"-though in fact it was an oral sequel to controversies current in STAND and PNR-I tried to explain why I consider the whole controversy, and the platform discussion also, largely irrelevant both to poetry and to politics. Very little that is useful can be said about poetry in general, without close attention to specific texts or the practice of specific writers; and the controversy has not even elicited statements of precise political aims and allegiances from the principal participants. At Cambridge Donald Davie, quite literally, had the last word; and he used his place on the platform to dismiss David Gascoyne's and my contributions from the floor not by entering into anything said by either of us but by the personal imputation of "gentility"-in the pejorative sense long familiar from an introduction to a Penguin anthology by A. Alvarez. He, however, was writing about poetry; and there is a crucial difference between wishing to eliminate gentility from poetry and wishing to eliminate it from public discussions.

I don't intend to waste PNR's space by defending David Gascoyne or myself against that ridiculous charge, in so far as it was aimed at his or my poetry, or even to defend the principle of gentility, as I could, by showing how at one time it would have forbidden the kind of ad hominem procedures on which Donald Davie ...


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