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This item is taken from PN Review 225, Volume 42 Number 1, September - October 2015.


Edgar Allan Poe might quite have liked Rugby – its structured lack of structure might have appealed to him – but surely it is inappropriate to show him in the national shirt of Australia, that sunniest of countries? [224’s cover image, by Tom Raworth, depicted Poe scoring a try and the words ‘POE/TRY’ – Eds] Granted that the USA is not much cop at the sport and Poe was ornithologically interested in birds other than the American Eagle (moniker of the US team) but surely he should be depicted, Raven-like, in all black? And given his career and character, perhaps being sent off rather than scoring a try?

David C. Ward
Washington D.C.


As you might have guessed, I enjoyed the cover illustration POE—TRY on your latest. But it raises a serious question. Did Edgar Allan have an Australian grandmother? I think we should be told.

Sam Adams


In his letter in issue 224, Neil Powell misunderstands something I say in my brief mention of James Booth’s biography Philip Larkin: Life, Art and Love in issue 223. Powell claims I am wrong to state that ‘Helen Vendler’s review of Booth’s book in the LRB was ‘delightfully titled “How to write about Larkin”’, because it wasn’t. I actually wrote that Booth’s ‘riposte to Helen Vendler’s LRB review [of his biography] has just appeared in that publication, delightfully titled “How to write about Larkin”’: I meant what I said, which is that Booth’s riposte had carried this title, not that Vendler’s review had done so. (It is online at

I thought my point fairly clear, but maybe not. Perhaps I was also not clear enough about my opinion of the biography in question. Powell notes that Grevel Lindop and I are both ‘too kind to Booth, whose book is ill-conceived, pedestrian in style and drearily complacent in tone.’ My comments that I had been ‘pushing on through’ the book, and ‘had so wanted it to be good’, were not intended to imply any kind of enjoyment in the reading experience. Indeed, Powell’s assessment would work as a very good tweet-length review of the volume.

Rory Waterman


Both of Professor Rayfield’s articles in the last issue were fascinating reads. On his review may I just venture the following quote from the obituary Michael Ulman wrote for Semyon Izrailevich Lipkin (1911–2003), published May 13th 2003 ( that whenever, ‘Akhmatova would name the most significant figures in modern Russian poetry, she would always include Lipkin among them.’

I have seen at Lipkin’s dasha in Peredelkino a handwritten dedication from Akhmatova which reads, ‘To ... Lipkin whose poems I always hear and once I cried’. Lipkin’s memoir instances the event – she’d just been the first audience for his two thousand line war poem, ‘The Technical Lieutenant Quartermaster’.

When I (as Lipkin’s translator) attended the 2015 Moscow Translators’ conference the editors of both major literary periodicals continued to laud this epic and Lipkin’s poetic oeuvre.

In Conversations With Joseph Brodsky Solomon Volkov quotes Brodsky saying of Lipkin, ‘You get the impression that he alone was speaking out for everyone, for all of our belle lettres. He saved our national reputation, so to speak. [...] I think he’s a remarkable poet – not on the hot topic of the day but on the horror of the day. In this sense he is in fact a Tsvetaieva disciple.’ (Conversations With Joseph Brodsky, Simon and Shuster).

In an article on translation in Cardinal Points (Vol 3, 2011) Daniel Weissbort describes Brodsky awakening him to Lipkin’s excellence saying, ‘Forget about Vinokurov [...] and translate Lipkin.’  Weissbort describes coming to understand that Vinokurov, unlike Lipkin, was Soviet.

Solzhenitsyn writes about the remarkable range and calibre of Lipkin’s work, informed by his intellectual independence from the regime.  

Lipkin’s entry in The Penguin Book Of Russian Poets, (Penguin, 2015) and Donald Rayfield’s review insofar as it relates to that entry should be read in accord with the views of Brodsky, Akhmatova and Lipkin’s poems many other champions during the seven decades their author had to wait to publish.

In the meanwhile I must express my debt of gratitude to Robert Chandler, Irina Mashinski and Donald Rayfield who have introduced, written about, provided appendices to, or published my work to date on Lipkin and encouraged my work on the two new volumes of translation I’ve prepared with Sergei Makarov, which include a version of ‘The Technical Lieutenant Quartermaster’.

The platforming of writers silenced by supremacists is the only way free discussion on their merit can ensue.

Yvonne Green


The dreadful misquotation of the line from Larkin’s ‘Dockery & Son’ that mars my report on the Poetry By Heart event at Homerton is, I’m afraid, entirely my fault. You’ll have seen that I render ‘And leaves what something hidden from us chose’ as ‘And left what something hidden from us shows’. The error is compounded by its being used to demonstrate students’ difficulty in understanding the line and therefore finding it difficult to commit to memory. Oh dear, your mailbox will quickly fill with messages from various wags rightly pointing to its being hardly surprising the students found the line difficult! I should say that the students I refer to were always grappling with the correct line!

So, my apologies. If you bring a charge of bringing PNR into disrepute, I shall, of course, plead guilty.

Mortified of Hounslow
aka Paul McLoughlin

This item is taken from PN Review 225, Volume 42 Number 1, September - October 2015.

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