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This article is taken from PN Review 229, Volume 42 Number 5, May - June 2016.

Charles Tomlinson at Bristol C.K. Stead
The British poet Charles Tomlinson died on 22 August 2015 aged eighty-eight. The following is from a memoir I am intermittently writing, this extract about my time as a PhD student on a scholarship from New Zealand at the University of Bristol, 1957–59, where my supervisor was Professor L. C. Knights, and Tomlinson was a member of the English Department.


Another visitor to the Department was the Canadian-born, American-by-adoption, critic Hugh Kenner, already a notable Eliot scholar. I don’t now remember much of his lecture but I remember his natty bow tie and mop of curly hair, and how his at first disconcerting speech (a consequence of deafness in childhood) contrasted with Lionel Knights’s smoothness and fluency introducing him; and yet how the keen intelligence and originality shone through. This was the man who made me aware I needed to know more about Ezra Pound, and who gave the idea of ‘Modernism’ an intellectual edge – made a puzzle and a challenge of it.

One purpose of Kenner’s Bristol visit was to cement his association with Charles Tomlinson, a junior lecturer in the Department, and the only British poet whose work Kenner felt was in tune with important things that were going on in American poetry. I can’t now quite disengage my present overview of Kenner from the much less I would have known about him then. He is author of one of the great books of twentieth-century literary criticism, The Pound Era (1972) – great not only for its intelligence and scholarship but for liveliness, originality and readability. Yet Kenner ...


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