PN Review Print and Online Poetry Magazine
News and Notes
Digital Access to PN Review
Access the latest issues, plus back issues of PN Review with Exact Editions For PN Review subscribers: access the PN Review digital archive via the Exact Editions app Exactly or the Exact Editions website, you will first need to know your PN Review ID number. read more
Poems Articles Interviews Reports Reviews Contributors
Gratis Ad 1
Monthly Carcanet Books
Next Issue Thomas Kinsella in conversation Jeffrey Wainwright comes to grips with St Chad Hsien Min Toh gives us a Korean perspective Iain Bamforth on Lou and Fritz: Sensible Shoes meets Starstruck Judith Bishop on Love and Self-Understanding in an Algorhythmic Age

This article is taken from PN Review 236, Volume 43 Number 6, July - August 2017.

‘goodbye, pleasant butter’ Jeremy Noel-Tod
‘i have tasted fire / goodbye, pleasant butter’: when I first read this two-line vanishing act, sometime around the turn of the century, I knew I felt the same about Tom Raworth’s poetry. I had become curious about its swift lyricism thanks to the 1971 Penguin Modern Poets paperback, where Raworth appeared alongside John Ashbery and Lee Harwood. Then I found a copy of tottering state: Selected Poems 1963–1987, published in 1988 by Paladin. And the poem that really grabbed me in this book was, disconcertingly, about what was going on as I moved my eyes over it:


begin
welcome in

appear
poem
in these lines

i will
not draw
your picture


This wide-eyed, breathy, William Carlos Williams-ish invocation of the Poem-Spirit was strangely at odds with the sardonic note sounded by the title above it: ‘How to Patronise a Poem’. One doesn’t ‘patronise’ a poem as one might patronise a restaurant: loyally, politely, generously. To patronise a poem implies putting a poem in its place and snapping one’s fingers for the bill.

Is the tone here patronising (‘begin’)? And, if so, who is the patron? The poet? The reader? Or the voice that I am adopting now to recount this experience – the crritic? And where is the actual poem that we are supposed to be patronising? Waiter!


One quick asterisk later, and the words on the page face about into contradiction:


no. the spark comes. we work together. oh it ...


Searching, please wait... animated waiting image