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This article is taken from PN Review 114, Volume 23 Number 4, March - April 1997.

Christopher Middleton: The Poem as Act of Wonder Jeremy Hooker

'We are in the midst of a great death of imagination.' Christopher Middleton's poetry, over more than forty years, has been an art of resistance to this death, which he described in introducing his collection of expository writings, Bolshevism in Art (Carcanet, 1978). Middleton described the 'suffocating situation' in an imagery of obstructions and airlessness: 'a world of impenetrable obstacles, a clotted and contrived world', in which 'authoritarian mystiques… choke the life-currents'. In contrast to this, 'the poetic reality is… a reality of first things, of the fresh roots of mind, the well-being of earth, the springtime of our suffering and passionate species' (BA, p. 17). It is clear from Middleton's argument and the imagery with which he supports it that he is a poet for whom there is a profound connection between natural and imaginative creativity, nature and mind, and that he apprehends seeing and imagining differently as an act which has political implications, and opposes all forms of tyranny.

The first poem in Christopher Middleton's latest book, Intimate Chronicles (Carcanet, 1996), concludes:
 

That fatal daybreak passes in a flash,
Perfect, for its makings and unmakings
While you wet a toothbrush in the old stone trough;
So tasting a brioche, you wonder still what's what.


Situated in history and nature, both with their 'makings and unmakings', the human subject ('you') going about its daily tasks and pleasures, and intensely conscious of the temporal nature ...


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