Anthology of Twentieth-Century British and Irish Poetry Paperback – 24 May 2001
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Top customer reviews
Several significant practitioners of what might be termed post-modernist, or late-modernist, or even "avant-garde" poetry have been included, but they represent less than half the selection from the post-1950 period, whihc does not seem to me to be unfair. I disagree with some of the inclusions and exclusions too, but I can't think of an anthology that I have agreed with totally in this respect, and it's not about to start now. This is far and away the best, and fairest survey of the period
so far, and it should open a number of eyes. It will offend the preconceptions of those committed to a more conservative view of history, but that is the job of an anthology - to redefine, to challenge, to suggest that appearances are not everything. This is a fine book that deserves to be on most reading lists, and on the shelves of most people interested in the subject. If it creates irate debate, so much the better: at least we'll all be talking about a subject that is all too often ignored.
Keith Tuma's new anthology is one of the very few books to pull together both mainstream & avantgarde together, as well as many authors who are hard to categorize in terms of such a binary. As he notes in his introduction, conventional literary histories in the UK, Ireland & the US have often portrayed UK & Irish poetry as a mirror-image to US poetry: hostile to modernist innovations; modest in ambitions; highly traditional in form. One thing his accent on nonmainstream poetries does is to undo such cliches: such writers as Mina Loy, JG Macleod, Thomas MacGreevy, Brian Coffey, WS Graham, Lynette Roberts & David Gascoyne are set beside better-known modernist figures like Eliot, Lawrence, Jones, Bunting & MacDiarmid. There are also many authors who aren't easily classified. What do you call Ivor Gurney? An experimentalist Georgian? Or Charlotte Mew--is she an avantgarde Decadent poet? What about FT Prince, or FR Higgins, or Elizabeth Daryush, or Nicholas Moore?
The book is organized chronologically according to birthdate: such an organization makes for startling juxtapositions of style & reputation. How about Keith Douglas (1920-1944: wrote a handful of great WW2 poems & a prose work, _Alamein to Zem Zem_, & died at Normandy); Bob Cobbing (b.1920: sound-poet, creator of visual poems by e.g. manipulating images on a xerox machine, founder of the redoubtable little press writers forum); Philip Larkin (1922-1985: Eeyoreish head of the Movement, author of some of the most loved contemporary poems in Britain, supporter of Thatcher, & now fallen from grace due to the posthumous publication of his bile-strewn letters). Or two poets born in the same year in Leeds: Tony Harrison (b.1937: represented by the long poem _v._, an elegaic poem whose four-letter words were the cause of a public uproar when it was broadcast on television by the BBC) next to John Riley (1937-1978: represented by the long poem _Czargrad_, a religious poem showing both his fascination with the Orthodox Church and with the poetics of Pound, Olson, Blackburn and Williams; the author died at age 41, killed by muggers in Leeds).
Probably the easiest way of demonstrating the book's unique diversity is to list the authors included. They are: Hardy, Hopkins, Kipling, Yeats, Mew, de la Mare, Ford, E. Thomas, Monro, Loy, Hulme, Wickham, Lawrence, Sassoon, Sitwell, Daryush, Muir, Eliot, Butts, Rosenberg, Gurney, MacDiarmid, Warner, MacGreevy, Owen, Rodker, Jones, Graves, Cunard, Clarke, Higgins, Bunting, S. Smith, Macleod, Kavanagh, Coffey, Empson, Beckett, Auden, MacNeice, Parsons, Devlin, Roberts, MacCaig, MacLean, Prince, Madge, D. Thomas, Sisson, Gascoyne, Moore, Graham, Scott, Douglas, Cobbing, Larkin, Davie, Berry, Finlay, Benveniste, Jennings, Middleton, Tomlinson, Kinsella, Turnbull, Montague, Gunn, Feinstein, Hughes, R. Fisher, Silkin, Tonks, Redgrove, Hill, Adcock, Harrison, J. Riley, Raworth, Langley, Reedy, Markham, James, Harwood, Heaney, P. Riley, Mahon, Crozier, Leonard, Raine, Boland, A. Fisher, Pickard, Reading, Forrest-Thomson, Lochhead, Joyce, D. Riley, MacSweeney, Griffiths, Catling, Halsey, Nichols, McGuckian, Lopez, O'Sullivan, Muldoon, Kuppner, Monk, Johnson, Scully, Wilkinson, Shapcott, Alvi, Duffy, cheek, Sheppard, Dabydeen, Healy, Breeze, Zephaniah, Kay, Herbert, Bergvall, Milne, Walsh, Macdonald.
I should also (in all modesty) add that this is one of the few volumes of modern poetry with full annotations. I assembled these with the assistance of scholars, other readers, poets, & in the case of the living, the poets themselves (indeed, some of the notes quote the letters they wrote me). I have continued to augment the notes, & have fixed a few small errors: readers who want to get the errata can write me at firstname.lastname@example.org for a copy.
Moreover, it isn't even a believeable anthology from a postmodern standpoint. Where's J. H. Prynne? Excluding him is like leaving John Ashbery out of an anthology of modern American poetry.
One positive note: the editor provides the full texts of long poems like Jones' "The Anathemata" and Muldoon's "Incantata" along with very helpful footnotes. But on balance, this simply won't do at all. And the pity is we're stuck with it because no publisher will invest in a project like this again for some time.
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