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This report is taken from PN Review 211, Volume 39 Number 5, May - June 2013.

Douglas Houston John Lucas
Eliot was reportedly bemused by Stephen Spender's avowal that he wanted to be a poet. Wanting to write poems, yes, that was understandable. But wanting to be a poet? How did you go about being one of those? Buy a cloak, wear your hair long, get your portrait painted by well-known artists, be seen toting the right books ('I carry Kierkegaard in my pocket, what do you carry in yours?')? I can't imagine Douglas Houston being much bothered by such considerations, any more than he was prepared to stake out a more conventional career for himself. But he did write poems, among them some outstandingly good ones. And as the occasional reviews he undertook showed, he thought about poetry to excellent effect.

Houston first came to attention through the poems he published in Douglas Dunn's famous 1982 anthology, A Rumoured City. Arriving as a student in Hull in 1965, he found himself among poets, and Dunn soon became an important mentor. But music was at first as strong a lure as poetry. He loved jazz, he became enthralled by rock music, and for a while he tried using the lifestyle of rock musicians as an experience out of which to make poems. Dunn was apparently not impressed by the results and in later years Houston would ruefully admit that in the early 70s he was producing work which in its lack of discipline was 'going nowhere'.

Still, any true writer finds by going where he or she ...


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