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This article is taken from PN Review 206, Volume 38 Number 6, July - August 2012.

Peter Scupham and the Muse of History
'Clio's rambling bargain basement'
Kevin Gardner

'I'm more interested in simultaneity than in sequence: what is alive is what engages one, whether it happened three hundred years ago or yesterday.'

For some writers the past may be a foreign country, but with Peter Scupham the past is his native element. History fogs the here and now, and the present tense of personal, cultural and social experience is entirely contingent upon the past tenses of things and places. Relics and curios dominate the texture of his marvellous poems, which positively brim with treasures culled from 'Clio's rambling bargain basement', as he wittily expresses it. Cataloguing the old and odd items found in museums, antique shops, boot sales, and attics, his imagination capaciously embraces all our 'tumbled bric-à-brac', the accumulations and leavings of humanity. 'Scuffed box-files, trunks, and shaky cabinets / Accept the long confession of our lives.' The fascinating and unusual stuff of Clio's basement also spills out into the landscape; gracing his poetry are ancient barrows and hill forts, public footpaths, medieval holy wells, ruined churches and abbeys, and country houses spilling over with antiquarian treasures. To be 'Gorged with junk', in his fine phrase, is to be fed and sated on this nourishment of the past. History is thus not merely contiguous with the present but rich with significance in our shallow and ephemeral present, granting identity and meaning to the personal and cultural aggregations of clutter and chattels, monuments and treasures that survive us.

It is Peter Scupham's ...


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