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This article is taken from PN Review 228, Volume 42 Number 4, March - April 2016.

Declining National Culture: The Dislocated Poetics of A Various Art David Herd
1. The General Category

In 1987, the year Margaret Thatcher (to whom I will return) won her third term of office, the poets Andrew Crozier and Tim Longville published an anthology with Carcanet Press. Entitled A Various Art, the anthology gathered seventeen poets whose work had been associated, for upwards of twenty-five years, with a network of little magazines and small presses. Two of the poets, Roy Fisher and J.H. Prynne, had received some critical attention already; the majority, including (at that time) Douglas Oliver and Iain Sinclair, were little known outside the publishing circuits they had helped to develop and sustain. As a presentation of a group of writers the anthology was notable for a number of reasons: for the quality and aesthetic ambition of its selected works; for the fact that only one of the poets, Veronica Forrest-Thomson, was female; for the claims that, as it situated the work, the anthology’s introduction both made and declined to make. Without passing over the matter of quality, or the question of gender, it is the implications of the anthology’s introductory statement that I want to fix on. The introduction was written by Crozier. Here is his opening gambit:


This anthology represents our joint view of what is most interesting, valuable, and distinguished in the work of a generation of English poets now entering its maturity, but it is not an anthology of English, let alone British poetry. We did not begin with this distinction in mind; indeed, had we done so it might have appeared that there ...


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