What else would anyone expect from the poet Michael Donaghy, but erudition, wit and originality? He was one of the most original thinkers and iconoclasts of his generation, and this book allowed me to feel as if I was having a further conversation with him. His writings are like listening to him talk. He is remembered with great fondness by those of us who knew him and worked with him, and he is missed by us all.
Michael Donaghy's opus is one of the brightest jewels to emerge in poetry of recent years. Often conveying profound ideas with a lightness of touch, he also made poetry fun. He was also a charismatic reader, plus a major inspiration and teacher for a number of contemporary poets.
Many of these qualities are on show in this volume. There are reviews of poets like TS Eliot, CK Williams and Richard Wilbur. These are often perceptive and insightful. There are essays on contemporary American poetry and various directions it has taken and what he considered its mistakes.
Of the pieces the best are probably the lecture "Wallflowers" and the final interview with the poet John Stammers. The wonderful short essay with advice for anyone who is starting to write poetry should be required reading on creative writing courses. There are some inevitable repetitions but much that repays reading and rereading. Donaghy's mercurial presence dances on the pages.
Two grouches. In the introduction, Clive James seems to want to show his his erudition as much as write about Donaghy. That's a minor irritation. Less forgivable, is the quality of production. The book has an elegant cover with stunning photograph, but the binding is very poor, likely to fall apart at any moment. Hence, four stars rather than five. Otherwise, highly recommended.