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This review is taken from PN Review 213, Volume 40 Number 1, September - October 2013.

Beyond C Major maurice rutherford, And Saturday Is Christmas (Shoestring Press) £10.00

Would-be jazz improvisers are often advised to listen closely to and analyse the solos of the straight-ahead saxophonist, Hank Mobley, who rarely strayed far from the chordal notes, weaving inventive and logical patterns from their ostensibly limited resources. Maurice Rutherford writes marvellous poems that because of their traditionalist nature are too easily overlooked. He has said in interview (PNR 202) that he generally finds it helps if he observes 'certain rules and boundaries' when he is 'thinking a poem onto the page' (because he fears writing 'chopped-up prose') yet he admits to hankering often after the excitement of free verse executed well. It is not, of course, the case that free verse floats free of rules and boundaries; and who can say there weren't times when Mobley wished secretly that he were Eric Dolphy.

To describe Rutherford as a formalist, then, would in its way be accurate, but it would not prepare the reader for the vitality of his poems, nor for his occasional venture out into choppier waters. There is plenty of great music still to be written in the key of C and pleasure to be had from new work by those who appear to be living still in an earlier age. Rutherford's 'earlier' age is that of Larkin, a resolute opponent of modernism (in poetry and jazz), and it turns out that both poets were born in the same year, that of Ulysses, The Waste Land and the sectioning of Ivor Gurney, all of ...


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