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

Different Gods: C.H. Sisson and Jack Clemo

Conflict and Change in the Poetic Theologies of C.H. Sisson and Jack Clemo
Toby Martinez de las Rivas
In the last few years, ‘radical’ as an epithet in poetry has come to be shorthand for a very particular kind of writing: politically submissive to Marxist dogma, syntactically committed to what is now termed the ‘interrupted lyric’, historically associated in the UK with the Cambridge School, and metaphysically derived from a range of post-structuralist continental thinkers. But postmodern theories of text and analysis have long since become commonplace in the discourse both of the academy and wider culture, and perhaps the truly radical now would be to see a deep political shift from the left to the right, or the substitution of a committed neo-­Georgian ruralism for a (de)constructivist urbanism in the halls of innovative poetics. The fact that such unbreakable taboos exist reveals the limited aspirations of the so-called radicalism of the recent avant-garde, if, by that, we mean an art which might genuinely shake itself, and, as a consequence, us. Perhaps this is why religious poetry holds unusual potential to become a place of transgression, as, at its heart, it explores ideas which are offensive to the sensibilities of rational materialism (as perceived by both the left and right), while closely engaging with the political climate of its day. It is a place of violent rupture as writers either embrace or reject a particular creed or communion, but also a place where the trajectory of individual faith may be wrestled with and exposed. In this regard, I wish to propose another two facets to the term ‘radical’, and apply these to the religious works of two poets from the ...


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