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This item is taken from PN Review 209, Volume 39 Number 3, January - February 2013.News & Notes
A theatrical adaptation of HAROLD PINTER'S poetry is currently receiving rave reviews on the New York stage.A Celebration of Harold Pinter is a one-man show performed by British actor Julian Sands. A few years before his death Pinter asked Sands, known for his appearances in the films A Room with a View and The Killing Fields, to fill in for him when he was too ill to give a reading. Sands memorably performed a Pinter poem at the unveiling of a plaque commemorating the playwright's birthplace in Clapton, Hackney, in September. Sands' Celebration debuted last year at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival, directed by the actor John Malkovich. Appearing in the intimate space of Manhattan's Irish Rep Theatre, with a sparse set and a well-worn book filled with Post-it notes for company, Sands interweaves his recitations of the poems with anecdotes about the author's life, from his relationship with his wife Antonia Fraser to his long battle with the cancer that eventually killed him. The poems are comically short. He showed his haiku-like effort about a famous English Test cricketer, 'I saw Len Hutton in his prime / Another time, another time', to fellow playwright Simon Gray and asked his opinion; Gray replied that he hadn't finished reading it yet.
The centenary of the birth of poet GEORGE BARKER falls on 26 February 2013. Celebrations featuring readings of Barker's poems by friends and acquaintances will take place in the spring at the Groucho Club in Soho (organised by the poet's widow, Elspeth Barker, and one of his daughters, the novelist Raphaela), at the Catto Gallery in Hampstead (hosted by the indefatigable Anthony Astbury of the Greville Press) and at Wells-next-the-Sea literary festival in Norfolk. Dates to be confirmed; please check the PNR website for details nearer the time. Barker was born in Loughton near Epping Forest in Essex; a blue plaque, also the brainchild of Astbury, marks the birthplace of 'George Granville Barker, poet, 1913-1991'.
Poet and novelist JOS&EACUTE; MANUEL CABALLERO BONALd was awarded the Cervantes Prize on 29 November 2012. Dario Villanueva, jury president of the award, hailed the 86-year-old native of Jerez de la Frontera as a 'teller and creator of stories and master in the use of language'. Villanueva stressed the author's strong ties with Spanish-language literature in Latin America, noting that Caballero Bonald is appreciated by 'Spanish speakers and Spanish readers on the other side of the ocean'. Caballero Bonald was one of the leading Spanish novelists of the 1950s and 1960s, devoting his work mainly to Spain's social situation of that time. Among his poetry collections are Manual de infractores (Offenders' Manual), a call for dissent, rebelliousness and non-conformism.
Cambridge University museums and Poet Laureate CAROL ANN DUFFY have launched an Arts Council-backed project, Thresholds. Ten British poets have been matched with ten of the university's museums and collections, where they will be in residence for a fortnight during spring 2013. The poets include Don Paterson, Daljit Nagra and Imtiaz Dharker. Each will be commissioned to produce a poem inspired by the exhibits at their assigned institution. Jackie Kay will be based at Kettle's Yard, Jo Shapcott at the Polar Museum and Owen Sheers at the Fitzwilliam. Gillian Clarke has been posted at the Museum of Zoology, which features animal specimens collected by Charles Darwin on the Beagle voyage. An anthology will be published next March.
Beat poet, publisher and bookseller LAWRENCE FERLINGHETTI has turned down a 50,000 euro Hungarian poetry prize on political grounds. 'The Prize is partially funded by the present Hungarian government, and since the policies of this right-wing regime tend toward authoritarian rule, and the consequent curtailing of freedom of expression and civil liberties, I find it impossible for me to accept.' Ferlinghetti would have accepted the prize on the condition that the prize money be used to publish work by Hungarian authors whose writings 'support total freedom of speech, civil rights and social justice'. The prize organisers declined. Ferlinghetti's latest collection of poems, Time of Useful Consciousness, was published in October by New Directions.
The archive of former Poet Laureate CECIL DAY-LEWIS has been donated to the Bodleian Library at Oxford by Day-Lewis's son, the actor Daniel, and his daughter, the television chef Tamasin. Less known than his 1930s contemporaries Auden, Spender and MacNeice, the Anglo-Irish poet is due for a revival, claimed University staff at a celebration at Wadham College on 30 October. 'This is a long-awaited celebration of the life of Cecil Day-Lewis', said the Bodleian's Sarah Thomas, who will have custody of his papers, comprising 54 boxes of manuscripts and letters. Professor Bernard O'Donoghue, Emeritus Fellow in English at Wadham, said that Day-Lewis had been 'misunderstood and under-rated for a long time'. His strong political interests and communist sympathies during the 1930s perhaps explain his lack of popularity now, O'Donoghue told the audience at Wadham. His 1943 collection, Word Over All, and his poem 'Where are the War Poets?', contain lessons for today, O'Donoghue claimed. Such poems, said Day-Lewis's daughter Tamasin, will endure: 'If you've written half a dozen poems that speak to the heart of people, it distils an essence. And ultimately that's what poets do, they distil truths.' The late poet's American friend Professor Albert Gelpi recounted their days of friendship in the 1960s when Day-Lewis went to Stanford, freed of his daily duties at publisher Chatto and Windus. Gelpi, whose volume Living in Time: The Poetry of C. Day-Lewis remains the definitive study of the poet's work, said that in writing about his friend, he had 'tried to be true to him and to be true to his work'.
VALERIE ELIOT, the widow and literary executor of T.S. Eliot, has died at the age of 86. She was the poet's second wife. She met Eliot at Faber & Faber when he was a director and she a secretary. A Yorkshire girl who became 'obsessed' with Eliot's 'Journey of the Magi' at the age of fourteen, the young Esmé Valerie Fletcher left school declaring her determination to 'get to Tom' by becoming his secretary - an aim she achieved in 1950 when she joined Faber & Faber. Her practical, down-to-earth nature, wholesome looks, discretion and formidable efficiency attracted the reticent poet, and the couple wed in 1957. Theirs was a vivacious and happy marriage, despite the almost forty-year gap in their ages.
After Eliot's death in 1965, Valerie became his devoted executor, editing his poems and letters for publication and steadfastly refusing to cooperate with would-be biographers, in keeping with the poet's last wishes. In 1971 she published The Waste Land: A Facsimile and Transcript of the Original Drafts Including the Annotations of Ezra Pound, an admirably thorough work of scholarship. Valerie Eliot remained a generous patron of poetry; from 1993, she donated the prize money (now £15,000) for the annual T.S. Eliot Prize for Poetry, awarded by the Poetry Book Society, and every year she presented the prizes. In a Guardian obituary (13 November 2012), David Morley recalls being charmed by an hour's conversation with her at the 1994 T.S. Eliot Prize party: 'She seemed like a living link to a period of modernism - and while she was that link, she was also so much more. The truth is that, within two sentences, you wanted to talk with Valerie Eliot because she was Valerie Eliot. Her directness, intelligence and poise charmed those of us who were lucky to know her.'
JACK GILBERT, a poet whose frank, emotionally forthright poems observed the realities of love and death, has died in California at the age of 87. Gilbert, who won the Yale Younger Poets Prize in 1962 for his first book, Views of Jeopardy, and the National Book Critics Circle Award in 2005 for his fourth, Refusing Heaven, was an outsider figure in contemporary American poetry. Born in 1925 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, Gilbert dropped out of high school and worked as an exterminator, and in a steel mill. He discovered Eliot and Pound in his teens and started writing poetry. He was accepted by the University of Pittsburgh due to a clerical error, but dropped out in 1946 and went to live in Paris, later returning to complete college. A restless, travelling man, Gilbert spent time living in Italy, San Francisco, Greece, Denmark and England, before returning to America in the 1970s. Initially associated with the Beats, he remained unfashionable, publishing only five books in over five decades. After achieving early recognition with his Yale win and a nomination for a Pulitzer Prize, Gilbert maintained a twenty-year publishing silence. His second collection, Monolithos, appeared in 1982, but he made his strongest impression with the late work published in his last two books, The Great Fires (1994) and Refusing Heaven (2005). He was first published in Britain in 2006 by Bloodaxe, with the retrospective volume Transgressions: Selected Poems. His Collected Poems was published in the United States in 2012, his oeuvre distilled into 400 concentrated pages.
John Welch remembers W.G. Shepherd (1935-2012): The poet and translator BILL SHEPHERD - who always published as W.G. Shepherd - has died at his home in North London. Married with three children, he worked in industry, specialising in contracts. He was born in Kent in 1935 and read English at Jesus College, Cambridge. He was one of the first poets to be published by Anvil, who brought out a pamphlet Allies in 1968, and three collections from Anvil followed. In the early 1970s his work for a time took a markedly experimental turn under the influence of a workshop convened by the poet Anthony Howell; this is reflected in two chapbooks which I published when running The Many Press, The First Zone of the Growth Furnace and The Antonine Poems.It was the former of these that led to a correspondence with J.H. Prynne, who had been a contemporary of his at Jesus. Despite having only limited Latin, Bill then became intensely preoccupied with translating Horace, describing it as almost a case of possession: 'I equipped myself with a Teach Yourself Latin dictionary and found that my Latin "A" Level from 1952 sprang from the grave,' he said in an interview. His versions of the Odes were published by Penguin Classics and Penguin went on to publish his translations of Propertius. His final venture in Latin translation was of Statius' Silvae, undertaken jointly with Anthony Howell and published by Anvil in 2007.
In middle life Bill fought a long battle with alcohol and depression which resulted in some very powerful confessional writing, though at the same time he could always be extremely funny. Much of this writing I published in the pamphlet collection The Gifted Child. In due course he completed a course of therapy and went on to practise as a counsellor. His last published collection Mother's Milk, which appeared from Menard Press in 2006, charts his journey from despair to recovery. Peter Dale said of it: 'The sequence moves from the hellish fragmentation of alcoholism to reach moments of lyrical peace where at least one sceptic glimpsed poetically moments of that oneness-of-being with nature sought by the poet.' Assiduous in sending out his work, he was nevertheless reclusive as regards the poetry scene, never giving or attending readings, and consequently had a lower profile than he might have had. His work was characterised by a weighty succinctness which may have been a result of his interest in Latin poetry. It was his open-mindedness and readiness to strike out in different directions that was remarkable. Reviewing him in The London Magazine, Christopher Hope characterised his work as 'a rare blend: thoroughly disciplined yet unrelentingly experimental'. It was an unusual and very refreshing combination.
Anne-Marie Albiach: A Reminiscence The great and influential French modernist poet Anne-Marie Albiach, born 9 August 1937, died 4 November 2012 in Paris after three weeks' hospitalisation in intensive care. With her husband, the equally memorable poet Claude Royet-Journoud, she was my life-long friend and colleague. Anne-Marie and Claude lived in London for a period during the mid to late 1960s. I first met them, if my memory is not playing me tricks, when they came into Zwemmers on Charing Cross Road, at that time a general bookshop with a strong literary bias, where I worked briefly before moving up the road as assistant manager at the 'round-the-corner' Better Books, in Phoenix Street I think that would be - most accounts of the Better Books modern literature and arts department of legend mistake it for the shop on Charing Cross Road. Although backing, or should I say siding, on to each other, they were distinct shops with separate entrances and purposes.
Claude and Anne-Marie, with another expatriate poet, Michel Couturier, were editing Siècle à mains, a small format review with jet black covers, the few pages of each of the early issues of which were devoted to a single French poet, though later there were finely printed larger format issues with several writers. I was in the early stages of gathering material for my own review Nothing doing in London. I invited Claude and Anne-Marie to act as consultants for France. In this way I came to know and to print the work of, for example, Edmond Jabès. I remember too Alain Delahaye passing through London. He wanted his issue of Siècle à mains to be printed in just one, or was it three, copies, certainly not more. However, he was prevailed upon. I published translationsof some of his later work, as I did Anne-Marie's, written while he earned a living translating for movie subtitles, before he quietly removed himself from poetry.
Towards the end of the 1960s events both drove me and enticed me out of England for some seven or eight years, first to Denmark, then to Norway, while Anne-Marie and Claude returned to Paris. Of course, this meant that we now saw very little of each other, except on the occasional trips I was able to make to Paris. Such trips led to meetings with Keith and Rosmarie Waldrop, who became the translator of Jabès, a then unknown Paul Auster, who has often sung the praises of Anne-Marie, and most of the Parisian poets within Anne-Marie and Claude's circle.
But what of Anne-Marie and her work? The two cannot be separated. Anne-Marie is her work. Her work is her. I shall not be the first to point out that she lived her life, not through, but in, her work. Her own body in the body of her writing. She has said as much herself. 'I live the text as a body.' Her work says as much itself. There is nothing mystical about this, though it may be mysterious, and it is certainly theatrical, an enactment of a personal theatre on the page. Technically, there is a debt to Mallarmé. Both her spatially conceived work and her dense prose blocks, which were often the pieces I felt most at home with while translating, inhabit a profound development of a modernism of deep linguistic and private experience without recourse to surface gestures of banality. Every word, every space is meant, is meant to be present or to be absent.
In 1971, Mercure de France published Anne-Marie Albiach's État, while Claude Royet-Journoud came to be published by Gallimard, at a time when no similarly established publisher in the UK would have considered parallel work.État is not an easy title to transcribe because it carries that initial italic É. It was Anne-Marie's preference that it not be transcribed as État. A minor disaster occured in the first edition (it was reprinted in 1988). On the spine Albiach appeared as ALBIAC, necessitating the hand Letrasetting, I believe it was, of the missing H on each copy. Mezza voce followed from Flammarion in 1984. Other volumes appeared from other publishers and finally Figurations de l'image appeared from Flammarion in 2004. Her engagement with American poets included, most notably, a translation of Louis Zukofsky's "A" 9.
Anne-Marie has been fortunate too in the translation of her own work into English, by various hands from several publishers: État (Keith Waldrop); "Vocative Figure" (Barnett and Joseph Simas); Mezza Voce (Simas with Lydia Davis, Barnett, Douglas Oliver); A Geometry (Waldrops); Figured Image (Keith Waldrop). All but one were published in the USA - "Vocative Figure" appearing, in a revised edition, from my own press - and all except État are, I believe, in print, available, for example, from SPD in Berkeley. Among journal publications, there are translations in issues of Burning Deck's Série d'Ecriture. The coupling of an early work with a late work, translated by Peter Riley, can be read on the Shearsman Books website. The reach of admiration for Anne-Marie's work beyond France was also brought home to me when, in 1993, I sought Andrea Zanzotto's permission to publish translations of his poems. He wrote of his pleasure at being published by an imprint that had published Anne-Marie.
Two volumes about Albiach's work stand out.Le Théâtre du poème / vers Anne-Marie Albiach by Jean-Marie Gleize (Belin, 1995) was the first to consider the totality of her work up to then. Jean Daive, Anne-Marie Albiach : L'Exact Réel (Pesty, 2006) collects conversations between the two poets over many years. Part of it, A Discursive, Space: Interviews with Jean Daive, had been translated by Norma Cole (Duration Press, 1999), which she revised for her Crosscut Universe: Writing on Writing from France (Burning Deck, 2000).
My last face-to-face visit with Anne-Marie was in the company of Keith and Rosmarie Waldrop. Memorable conversation about books recently received, in particular, L'EXCES : cette mesure (Galerie Yvon Lambert, 2004) in which American artist Richard Tuttle illustrated, perhaps the wrong word, some of her poetry. We may have been looking at a proof. I am not going to pretend that it was easy negotiating the dense swirl of cigarette smoke in Anne-Marie's apartment. It wasn't and I grasped, yes, grasped, for air when every now and then I went to a window, briefly to open and close it.
I have rarely dedicated a single poem to a fellow poet but there is one:
for Anne-Marie Albiach
Ages of reading the
This item is taken from PN Review 209, Volume 39 Number 3, January - February 2013.