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This article is taken from PN Review 5, Volume 5 Number 1, October - December 1978.

WHY CELEBRATE Charles Tomlinson? Why dedicate a large chunk of PNR 5 to him, of all poets?

Well, out of cordiality, perhaps . . . It is his fiftieth birthday this year.

That's not much of a pretext, someone says. After all, it's Charles Causley's sixtieth birthday this year! Auden and MacNeice would be seventy! Come-a better reason.

Tomlinson's work has been a central feature both in Poetry Nation and in PN REVIEW. The first poem in the first issue of Poetry Nation was 'The Way In', later title poem for his most recent collection. Few issues of the magazine have not included his prose or verse. I am particularly grateful to him for making available to us what I take to be major work-'The Way In', and more recently the Marat, Charlotte Corday and, in this issue, the Danton poems, as well as some of his best elegies.

Ah yes, that irritating someone says, but you have featured prominently the work of other poets as well. . .

There is the matter of Tomlinson's services to English poetry. He championed the verse of Edward Thomas and Keith Douglas before they were widely read. He helped introduce the work of Williams, Pound, Stevens, Marianne Moore, and other outstanding American writers to a sometimes tepid, sometimes hostile English public. And he has been among our leading translators and promoters of foreign poetry. He has done a great deal to enrich our poetic consciousness, to multiply our poetic choices.

Ah, but . . . says that someone, prolonging the interrogation. The reason, then, boldly:

I take Tomlinson to be an excellent poet, one of the best English poets writing today. His work has not had its due in England, though it has abroad. He merits more readers. His independence, his tenacity, and his formal and thematic quests benefit all of us (though some are reluctant to concede it) by providing distinctive poems, new and unexpected formal models, fresh approaches to poetry, and an example of poetic integrity within the living English tradition (taking 'tradition' in the sense that Michael Hamburger does in describing Beckett's poetry in this issue of PNR-contrasting it with wooden convention).

Tomlinson is no longer much disheartened by the casual dismissal he often receives from journalist-critics or the simple defensive malice of the Little Englanders. He has a growing body of readers who, like me, admire his poetry, criticism, translations and graphics. He is a man of parts, an artist in a wider sense than most of our contemporaries can aspire to be, a man worth celebrating when he reaches his half century with so much achieved and so much yet to give. And he deserves to be celebrated in England.

This celebration begins with some of his recent poems. There follows a brief interview which explores developments in his work. There are then several tributes paid him by poets, critics, producers and readers-tributes which evoke the man and the artist. There is also a selection of his most recent graphic work, PNR's first departure into this area.
-Michael Schmidt

This article is taken from PN Review 5, Volume 5 Number 1, October - December 1978.

Readers are asked to send a note of any misprints or mistakes that they spot in this article to
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