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This item is taken from PN Review 200, Volume 37 Number 6, June - July 2011.

For Charles Tomlinson
The first poem in Poetry Nation 1(1973) was Charles Tomlinson's 'The Way In', later the title poem of his 1974 collection. It launched a long-lived, Protean experiment in magazine publishing. Our first supplement in PNR 5 (1978) was devoted to Charles. It included contributions by a mixed choir of advocates, among them John Betjeman, George Oppen, Peter Levi, Vittori Sereni, Michael Kirkham, Donald Wesling, Ronald Hayman, Marjorie Perloff and John Berger. We published Octavio Paz's essay on his graphic work in Poetry Nation 5.

He has contributed poetry thirty-nine times to PN Review, articles twice, reviews six times, and one front cover. He has been reviewed thirteen times and interviewed twice. He is one of the poets on whom PNR is built. It is appropriate to celebrate him in our 200th issue. With Elaine Feinstein and Christopher Middleton, he is a survivor of the generation that informed our early years, including especially Donald Davie and C.H. Sisson, but also Patricia Beer, Elizabeth Daryush, W.S. Graham, Michael Hamburger, John Heath-Stubbs, Elizabeth Jennings, Octavio Paz, F.T. Prince, Laura Riding, Anne Ridler, Adrian Stokes and David Wright. As a tutelary spirit, he is a man at home in many languages and on every continent, a lover of the English within a known context of traditions, devoted to the pastoral and at the same time continually engaged with world Modernism in many forms and languages. It was partly through him that PNR found its way to Middleton, and then to John Ashbery and (in a different spirit) to Les Murray, and Eavan Boland. His human presence inspire us, and his poetic presence, though he no longer writes poems, is secure abroad and at home. We salute him, and through him all those writers who have made PN Review a living force for almost four decades.

The Way In

The needle-point's swaying reminder
Teeters at thirty, and the flexed foot
Keeps it there. Kerb-side signs
For demolitions and new detours,
A propped pub, a corner lopped, all
Bridle the pressures that guide the needle.

I thought I knew this place, this face
A little worn, a little homely.
But the look that shadows softened
And the light could grace, keeps flowing away from me
In daily change; its features, rendered down,
Collapse expressionless, and the entire town

Sways in the fume of the pyre. Even the new
And mannerless high risers tilt and wobble
Behind the deformations of acrid heat -
A century's lath and rafters. Bulldozers
Gobble a street up, but already a future seethes
As if it had waited in the crevices:

A race in transit, a nomad hierarchy:
Cargoes of debris out of these ruins fill
Their buckled prams; their trucks and hand-carts wait
To claim the dismantlings of a neighbourhood -
All that a grimy care from wastage gleans,
From scrap-iron down to heaps of magazines.

Slowing, I see the faces of a pair
Behind their load: he shoves and she
Trails after him, a sexagenarian Eve,
Their punishment to number every hair
Of what remains. Their clothes come of their trade -
They wear the cast-offs of a lost decade.

The place had failed them anyhow, and their pale
Absorption staring past this time
And dusty space we occupy together,
Gazes the new blocks down - not built for them;
But what they are looking at they do not see.
No Eve, but mindless Mnemosyne,

She is our lady of the nameless metals, of things
No hand has made, and no machine
Has cut to a nicety that takes the mark
Of clean intention - at best, the guardian
Of all that our daily contact stales and fades,
Rusty cages and lampless lampshades.

Perhaps those who have climbed into their towers
Will eye it all differently, the city spread
In unforeseen configurations, and living with this,
Will find that civility I can only miss - and yet
It will need more than talk and trees
To coax a style from these disparities.

The needle-point's swaying reminder
Teeters: I go with uncongealing traffic now
Out onto the cantilevered road, window on window
Sucked backwards at the level of my wheels.
Is it patience or anger most renders the will keen?
This is a daily discontent. This is the way in.

This item is taken from PN Review 200, Volume 37 Number 6, June - July 2011.

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