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This item is taken from PN Review 223, Volume 41 Number 5, May - June 2015.

News & Notes
Manchester is not Mosul, yet after a refurbished and reinvented Manchester Central Library was opened in March 2014, one unanswered question still hangs over the project. Where have 240,000 books gone? They are not on the shelves, they are not in the stacks. They have vanished. In March PN Review received a message: ‘The sad purpose of this email is to inform the general public that the Friends of Central Library (who fought a spirited and well-supported campaign to protect the collections) have recently discovered through a Freedom of Information request that all 240,000 books have been “withdrawn and are no longer available” by order of the Libraries Management Team, led by the Director of Libraries, Neil MacInnes.’ This vandalism was less extreme than that of ISIS: ‘there were no losses to the special collections, rare books, local history or Archives’. What has been deliberately lost are ‘the irreplaceable collections of reference and lending non-­fiction books, covering every conceivable subject, giving that extraordinary breadth and depth of subject coverage that only long-­established libraries can provide. Outside of London, Manchester contained the largest and most important non-fiction collections freely available to the general public in the whole of the U.K. No longer.’ The letter reminds us that in 2010 we were told, ‘this project will not see any significant book disposal, other than that which is in line with our routine disposal policy’. In fact getting rid of 25% of the total stock, and between 40 and 50% of the reference and lending non-fiction book stock, might seem to be well out of line with any routine policy of stock disposal. No public consultation seems to have taken place and no one is taking responsibility or being held responsible. Yet this enormous book stock was not the property of the librarians who disposed of it but, one assumes, of the city that it benefited. The protest failed but awareness has been raised and other library users may be alerted to possibilities of large-scale civic vandalism against their institutions. The Friends’ letter concludes, ‘It is too late for Manchester but hopefully not for other great libraries: our sister group, the Friends of New York Public Library recently fought a successful campaign to stop the destruction of their famous library stacks! They have succeeded where we have failed but it is important to us that this information at least should be where it belongs – in the public domain.’

On 3 March the Ted Hughes Award shortlist was announced. This year’s judges, Julia Copus, Kei Miller and Grayson Perry, have chosen Patience Agbabi for her ‘21st-­century remix of Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales’, Imtiaz Dharker for her poems and drawings, Carrie Etter for her ‘birth­mother’s catechisms’ and ‘imagined sons’, Andrew Motion for his Coming Home about one of the last British soldiers to leave Afghanistan, and Alice Oswald for her poem and performance of Tithonus. The winner is announced on 2 April. The Poetry Society provided a recommended Facebook message and tweet. The proposed Facebook message concludes with the injunction, ‘The winner will be announced in April, but why not use the next month to delve into the incredible nominated works:’. In what sense ‘incredible’? Or should that be an adverb?

The death of the poet PHILIP LEVINE, aged 87, was announced on 15 February. He was a poet laureate of the United States (2011–12) and was awarded a Pulitzer Prize in 1995 for The Simple Truth. His work was described by the New York Times as being ‘vibrantly, angrily and often painfully alive with the sound, smell and sinew of heavy manual labor’. He received National Book Awards, in 1980 and 1991, for Ashes: Poems New & Old and What Work Is. He was professor emeritus of English at California State University, Fresno. He taught there from 1958 to 1992. To the Paris Review in 1988 he said, among other wonderfully challenging things, ‘By not going to Paris to study at the foot of Gertrude Stein or going to Harvard to study with Harry Levin or Walter Jackson Bate or Archibald MacLeish, I stayed at home and studied with my equals, people of my own age, which may have been right for me. I was better off with my equals. What was I going to write about Gertrude Stein?’ Reviewing his work in this magazine in 1986, Michael Hofmann wrote, ‘I am still a long way short of explaining how it is that Levine’s long ribbons of poems have come to occupy their place in my heart! They run all the way down a page, and then, mostly, halfway down the next – perhaps in their maker’s image, I like to imagine!’

On 26 February TONY HARRISON received the 2015 David Cohen Prize for Literature at a reception at the British Library. Harrison took a £40,000 purse. In addition, he was invited to select a beneficiary of the annual £12,500 Arts Council-funded Clarissa Luard Award. He nominated the Wordsworth Trust, a decision much to be applauded. Mark Lawson chaired the judges and declared, ‘Poetry is often now regarded as a minority or declining art-form. So a remarkable aspect of the career of Tony Harrison is that his verse has featured in television peak-time, on the stages of the National Theatre and on the front pages of national newspapers. But, as well as taking poems to places where they are not expected to go, Harrison has also excelled in the expected territory, through collections over four decades that have resulted in a Selected Poems with an exceptional range of subjects and structures.’ Harrison follows in the footsteps of V.S. Naipaul, Harold Pinter, Muriel Spark, Julian Barnes and Hilary Mantel.

Poet GERRY LOOSE and photographer and land artist MORVEN GREGOR have been commissioned to produce the 2015 cross-art collaboration for the Aldeburgh Poetry Festival in November. Previously awarded to Hannah Silva, the performance artist, and to Ian McMillan and Fran Crow the year before, this year’s project will be a visual art and poetry collaboration across the two festival sites of Snape Maltings and Aldeburgh. They came to visit the two sites in March. Loose wrote, ‘Drawing on our own boating and water dwelling histories together with decades-long experience of reading landscapes (all part of our different artistic processes) we can glimpse the directions our work can go to fulfil this challenging Commission.’

At the 2015 Independent Publishers Guild Awards gala dinner, Carcanet Press received the Alison Morrison Diversity Award. It is unusual for poetry publishers to figure in this way at trade events. ‘Carcanet gives voices to poets around the world that would not otherwise be heard,’ the judges, aware too of the contribution of PN Review, declared. ‘2014 was an outstanding year in which they published a list of books committed to reflecting a broad range of diversity and which proved to be both critically and commercially successful.’ Carcanet was also shortlisted in the Inkubate Trade Publisher of the Year category. More recently, it has been shortlisted in the Bookseller Industry Awards for the Independent Publisher of the Year.

This item is taken from PN Review 223, Volume 41 Number 5, May - June 2015.

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