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This review is taken from PN Review 195, Volume 37 Number 1, September - October 2010.

GALLIMAUFRY FOR THE CHOSEN Identity Parade: New British and Irish Poets, edited by Roddy Lumsden (Bloodaxe)

Why is it would-be canon-builders always deny they’re canon- building? In this case, the would-be canon-builder sticks to the policy of pre-emptive denial as if this might put the reader off the scent: the main purpose of this book, writes Roddy Lumsden in his introduction, ‘is not to act as a canonical document of an era’. This has the feel to it of a politician denying he is interested in the party leadership. What’s curious is the manner in which Lumsden then expressly places his project along the arc of other canon-building books – those by Al Alvarez, Edward Lucie- Smith, Morrison and Motion, and the triumvirate of Hulse, Morley and Kennedy. Whereas Alvarez offered us twenty-eight poets, Hulse et al. fifty-five, Lumsden offers us eighty-five. Things are more plural now, he argues, and poets more gateclamouring: ‘The predominant social and cultural phenomena of the 1990s and 2000s have been diversity and information overload.’

What follows is the slightly dodgier lock-out policy. The critical year is 1995. Anyone who’d published a collection before that date is out. This means omitting some of the founding fathers of the very ‘generation’ to which he now turns his editorial affection; there seems something eerily Shakespearian about a book that omits Don Paterson, for example, and includes Simon Barraclough, David Briggs and Kevin Higgins. Omitting Paterson from the period 1995–2010 is like writing a history of song-writing in the 1960s while omitting Bob Dylan. Paterson misses the cut by only two ...

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