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This item is taken from PN Review 217, Volume 40 Number 5, May - June 2014.

On a spring morning in April, as I write this, Wallace Stevens’s lines come to mind: ‘The exceeding brightness of this early sun / Makes me conceive how dark I have become.’ Forty years ago, when for a young editor a bright day found an answering brightness of spirit, Carcanet published one of the books that defined its early character, In the Trojan Ditch by C.H. Sisson. Two years before that Sisson made the first of his 139 contributions to PNR, or rather, to the first issue of Poetry Nation (1973). ‘The Usk’ was the third of the three poems included there.

Lies on my tongue. Get up and bolt the door
For I am coming not to be believed
The messenger of anything I say.
So I am come, stand in the cold tonight
The servant of the grain upon my tongue,
Beware, I am the man, and let me in.

When he turned 70 in 1984, PNR ran a whole issue – number 39 – devoted to his work. There I wrote, ‘I hate his being 70. I met him when he was 58 (I was 24) and the adjustment to calendar time is difficult. […] His poetic persona was always a little senior, sometimes making Tithonus look a youngster. But he remains inventive and he possesses that dissatisfaction which drives the really good poet on and denies him repose.’ I hated his being 70, and now he is, or would be, 100.

In 1976 Robert Lowell, who ‘kept your book on ...

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