Tuesday, 12 November 2019

Nothing is Being Suppressed: sources

Bibliographical essay on sources for ‘Nothing is Being Suppressed’ and the 1970s

Nothing is Being Suppressed is a book on British poetry in the 1970s. I hope to publish it soon, but in the meantime this is about sources which I found exciting. I minimised the bibliography in the book but this is some back-up for those interested in the 1970s as a period. It is striking that the most satisfying prose narratives date from the beginning of the decade – what followed was a breaking-up of the poetic scene, and perhaps the velocity of innovation was partly responsible for this.

The number of volumes coming out rose very steeply, and the capacity of magazines to review did not keep pace. There was a capacity problem, as opposed to a cultural cold war. Poetry changed in the 60s and 70s, but there was no effective public debate about the merits of the changes and very little record of the stylistic doubts of poets and decisions that poets took. Poetry was not in the “rational-public” sphere of language but the “private-intuitive” sphere. Poetry got to where it was going without the help of intelligent reviewers. Having said that, we can be grateful for how good Jonathan Raban’s book The Society of the Poem is, and for the reviews that can be recovered from Poetry Information

There is a lack of an overview of the decade. I can’t really debate with people, because basic ideas about chronology, style development, and so on, are not out there. I believe that things changed very rapidly during the decade and you could probably split it into five separate phases. This is complicated and I think more debate is needed before clear statements can be made. If you accept that idealism was replaced by disillusion, during 1974 or soon after, most of the story is a narrative of disillusion. That narrative is meaningless unless you establish what the illusions were. 

Janet and Colin Bord, Mysterious Britain. I believe Janet did the text and Colin did the photographs. This is a timeless evocation of hippy sensitivity to the vibrations of special places, more valuable than most because the photographs are genuinely beautiful. This is an example of new knowledge as it stood in 1972, dissolving objectivity to become completely aestheticized and part of a personal trip. Objectivity couldn’t really compete, and the younger poets learnt the lesson of this.
Ed. Pattison, Pattison, and Roberts. Certain Prose of The English Intelligencer. Technically this ends before 1970, but it gives compelling insight into the attitudes of people who would write most of the really good poetry of the Seventies. TEI was a magazine, based on the idea of people sending out poems and other people critiquing them. It had the idea that you could learn how to write modern poetry.
David Chaloner-John Hall letters, printed in Angel Exhaust 22. These letters follow on from the Intelligencer– part of a huge correspondence between the most conscious poets, of which most is unpublished. Certainly a key source for the ideas behind the poems. The letters selected cover a period of a few months (in 1969 and 1970) and offer detailed commentaries on poems the two correspondents were writing (and which I have not been able to track in print). Arguably, TEI was too public and the real work of collaborative reading and criticising took part in much smaller groups, through letters.
Poetry Information. (1970-80) This stapled magazine was sympathetic to Mottram’s line, and at a certain point was designed to put out information about the new poetry, while Mottram banned reviews from Poetry Review itself. PI contains a great deal of useful material, interviews carried out by Mottram (at the Poetry Centre) in the first place. The unstated ideology is that the future which British poetry is hurtling into has already been mapped out by American poets, and is therefore a known landscape. Poets simply have to imitate the relevant US poets (and this definitely excludes Lowell, Berryman, and Yvor Winters) to succeed. It follows that the magazine was more interested in mapping the American avant garde of the Fifties than in explaining new British poetry – it didn’t field experts in the latter, I am afraid. It was as if all you had to do was imitate Olson and Zukofsky in the right way. No credible reviewer emerged, and no language for discussing the new British poetry was developed. PI devotes much space just to listing new publications, leaving out, of course, anything that wasn’t hip and with-it.  The most interesting reviewing of the time involved dividing up the whole poetic realm into a few districts, ascribing each of these to an American poet (mostly from Donald Allen’s 1960 anthology) as Owner, and defining success as posting every British poet to one of these owned allotments. Partly, I feel that its potential was used up by the time British poets achieved autonomy, maybe in 1973. Partly, I feel that it is a weak form of description – mentioning Olson doesn't tell you very much about Prynne's poetry, even if contact with Olson changed his attitude completely, around 1962. Something more painstaking and derived from observation and pattern seeking is required. Also, if people haven’t read all those American poets, their names are useless as descriptors – and gives us an extra chore, of spending 50-100 pages explaining what American poetry of 1955-65 was like. However – I certainly don't want to argue with the results of that self-confident endeavour of the time. The Prynne interview says, for around 1960, I was seeing all this strong possibility in the Don Allen anthology, but I knew I wasn’t going to be able to tune into that in a very convincing way because the English nature of the English language and its English resources inhibited that transfer. It was not a transfer that could be made just like that.” The changes are the material of interest. At some point you have to describe Andrew Crozier in terms of his resemblance to A. Crozier and not in terms of his resemblance to side-line Objectivists like Carl Rakosi. The task of explaining why British poetry only succeeded by completely altering the gleaming US model, and what these adaptations consisted of, had to wait for a future decade. People were so besotted with the schema of re-creating America that they didn't take in what was really happening. A schema that prevents perception. 
2nd Aeon .– Some issues of this Cardiff magazine (1966-74) are available on-line. It was a classic of its time – and sums up the new thing in British poetry. Peter Finch reviews publications in a few words, maybe 30. In this way he goes through hundreds of them. I suppose this isn’t ideal but it does put you on top of a huge wave of information, it gives you a feeling of all the stuff that was unpreventably happening in the first half of 1974, for example. Because Finch says so much, you get the feeling of his life being lived through poetry, so in fact of what it meant to be committed to poetry at that time. This drags the poetry down to earth, to being part of someone’s life. He is certainly close to the poetry, his reactions are close to summing up what it is for. Of course there were experts who read very little modern poetry, being stuck in 17th C plays or whatever; people who read huge amounts of new poetry are few in number, and they rightly come to have an authority when they speak.
Peter Barry, Poetry Wars. I reviewed this for Shearsman magazine in 2006 (I think). It is a description of the brouhaha around the Poetry Society in 1975-7, when segments (large or not, unclear) of the Society membership disagreed with the editorial policy of the Society’s magazine and the use of rooms at the Poetry Centre in Earls Court in London, and the Arts Council, as principal funder, began to investigate. The events aren’t very interesting but the confrontation of competing views of poetry is. The problem is that Barry does not recover the views of the people who weren’t total Mottram fans, so that we don’t find out what it was they objected to – evidently the split in the scene is basic to modern poetic history, so a discussion of it would have been useful. However, this is a wonderfully evocative book about life as one of the Mottram crew in the 70s and Eighties, melancholically wandering through a dismal exile. Is this a classic? I have certainly read it four or five times. “The lot of the BPR poets, then, was ‘The Scene’ – a sequence of deja-vu poetry readings that stretched to the crack of doom – with their steady-state audiences of belated Dadaists, proto-modernists, hopelessly addicted word-junkies – always the same faces, just a little bit older each time. If nothing else, those audiences were faithful – the trouble was, they never reached double figures.” Booth’s book says that readings attendance in general declined after 1974, so this state of affairs should not be seen as a consequence of the “poetry wars”.
I suppose the appeal of the subject is because different poetic factions usually ignore each other and debate about poetics is rare. I think people probably did think about and express their ideals, during this row, but the record of what was said is disappointingly thin. It would be so good if you had people from five factions doing a close reading of poetry from other factions and explaining why they don’t like it very much. Sadly, the institutionalised set-up is that people just don’t read poetry emanating from other factions.

Roy Fisher, interviews now in Interviews through Time. These are the most interesting reflections by a modern poet on the poetic art.

Geoffrey Grigson, Blessings, Kicks, and Curses (1982). Grigson was an astute observer with an impressive prose style, unusually clear, pointed, and pungent. However, he had not taken in anything new about poetry since 1943. His value as a critic of the 1970s is exclusively as an example of crusted and authoritarian conservatism. This kind of attitude was part of the scene – it was people born after 1945 who were open to the new sound.
I think the most influential enemy of the modern was Geoffrey Grigson. He published three books during or just before our period, and he wrote authoritative anti-modern essays in the TLS. But he doesn’t bother to take on modern poetry (since Dylan Thomas, roughly), he just says it is unimportant. There is an essay (“From Imagists to the Black Mountain”), which looks promising as a statement of reactionary or conservative defence mechanisms. But the title is a hoax, it is a review of an anthology of Imagism, up to 1930 or so, and it has nothing at all about Black Mountain or even about Objectivism. I think people already knew they wanted to be told that the Black Mountain poets were evil and misguided and could be ignored. Otherwise, the title is puzzling. It is striking that “empiricism” was thrown out when it came to modern-style poets: for them, a disproof at theoretical level was enough, you didn’t have to actually read the stuff when you could crush it just by labelling it as non-empirical, modern, or American-influenced. I don’t think you can crush poetry at the theoretical level. You actually have to read it, I think. When you see one of the conservative reviewers describe something as “Black Mountain”, that is shorthand for “modern poetry by crazy people”, and it does not refer back to any descriptive review or to any debate that actually happened. I think Grigson’s activity consisted of a kind of “territorial cleansing”, and that there was probably a segment of opinion which wanted to watch this cleansing happening, wanted a much less ambiguous and diverse poetic scene, and which bought his books. But that isn’t certain. You have to read between the lines. I think it is disappointing that the gatekeepers were fighting back against a modernity represented by Allen Ginsberg or Michael Horovitz, as opposed to the significant new British poets. But at least that defines the need for a book which would list those significant new poets, even if so many years later. Actually, Grigson is animated by rage against Dylan Thomas, and there is not much trace of him actually reading anyone younger. Grigson had been a very effective magazine editor in the Thirties, and maybe he read so much new poetry, good and bad, then, that he felt no need to read any more after about 1939.

Don’t Start me Talking. Interviews with 22 poets. Edited Tim Allen and Andrew Duncan. This is not specifically about the Seventies but quite a few of the poets were active then. Of course interviews with real poets are the richest of sources.

Martin Booth, Driving through the barricades. British poetry 1964-84. Booth is unusual for bypassing textual analysis and giving an account of face to face poetic life, as he travels around the country to numerous readings venues and meeting the people who like to attend them. This resembles The Society of the Poem but gives a different point of view.
Eric Mottram, PCL catalogues. From weekend events held in 1974 and 1977, at the Polytechnic of Central London (in Euston Square I presume) for which Mottram wrote extraordinary “catalogues”, documentation of the innovations since 1960. The 1974 one was “The British Poetry Revival 1960-74” and the 1977 one was ”Inheritance Landscape Location”. These have never been reprinted but they are key to understanding what the scene was and what people then understood it to be. Again, the poets concerned had begun publishing in the Sixties or earlier, and little coverage of new Seventies poets was possible. This is not a survey of the Seventies. The “Place” catalogue is more about what a human urban space is and less about poets. Eric wrote about a wave front where the high velocity parts of the present are breaking into and turning into the future. His most valuable pictures are of the future that hasn’t happened yet. Of course this isn’t objectively verifiable, but a critic who can do this will actually influence the course of events. Although he piles up much information, this is hardly an exact description of the history of innovative poetry from 1960 to 1974. (I know efforts are being made to give these proper publication, but publishers seem recalcitrant and I suppose it is a bit late now.)

Allen Fisher, Marvels of Lambeth. Interviews and talks. This deals mainly with the 1970s, because otherwise the material would have overwhelmed the limits of the book. It recovers a great deal of information about Fisher’s classic Place work (1974-80).

Jonathan Raban, The society of the poem (1972). I discuss this in the book but here it is again because it is just such a perfect evocation of the people who read poems and the conversation on the scene in around 1971.

Edward Lucie-Smith, Introduction and notes on poets in British poetry since 1945 (1970).
Technically, none of the poems in this great anthology was written in the 1970s, but all the same Lucie-Smith’s evocation of the success and failure of poets is second to none. He is especially good on the backers and supporters of poets, so that he described a scene made up of small coherent groups defined by sympathy –or shared fantasy. Poets don’t write in a vacuum, and the poem may have been preceded by conversations in which the need for such a poem was at least sketched. Yes, poets try to give people what they want. Lucie-Smith travels through the poetic landscape vineyard by vineyard. He doesn’t favour any group but recovers more information than other critics because he never depersonalises a faction (thus throwing the valuable information away). He includes many of the “British Poetry Revival” poets – effectively, Mottram threw away all the poets who were travelling more slowly and created a category of poets who were then visibly travelling at super speed. This was incredibly exciting but perhaps Lucie-Smith’s version has more substance and covers more ground.

Lee Harwood, Not the full story. Interviews with Kelvin Corcoran. This tells you a lot about Lee Harwood (not specifically in the 1970s). Collecting 100 pages of information about one author certainly gets you further than collecting 2 or 3 pages, which is what I do in Nothing is Being Suppressed.

Jeremy Reed, I heard it through the Grapevine. Asa Benveniste and Trigram Press (2016). Again, a whole volume about one poet. This is less satisfactory than a book of interviews, i.e. the poet in his own words, but is still essential, also because Asa was an essential poet, a part of the scene which people seem quite happy to forget.

Iain Sinclair. So much of Sinclair’s prose work is a vast, delta-like, evocation of the alternative arts scene of the Seventies. This involves (almost) all his books and can’t be listed straightforwardly. But for example Hackney, that Rose-red Empire includes an oral history of a single shared house (originally a squat I think?) in east London which is crucial for understanding the alternative lifestyle, as pioneered after 1968, and the “social space” in which the most important poetry was projected. The story flows on through Ghost Milk, Suicide Bridge, Red Eye, Radon Daughters, and others.
It’s probably as much a cliché to say that Sinclair’s work evokes the London of the time (say 1965 to 2018?) as to say that Balzac evokes Paris in the 1830s, but it’s true, so there we are. Is there a check on what he says? No, but his work is so evocative on so many sensory and emotional levels that you don’t miss what is not there. London is the base but there is a great deal about Cambridge and Wales too.
It’s pointless to try and remain detached. It can’t be true that everything is here, but his work is immersive and will saturate you with knowledge.
Sinclair never forgets that poetry is made of information and the information starts in a great social stew where the poets may be the ones who write it down but the feelings and ideas, the dream quests, may come from quite other people, and the scene belongs to everyone energetic enough to drive their way into it. Actually, maybe we could combine this with Lucie-Smith’s vision of many groups each sustaining a wish for poetry and a design for it. The terms “Cambridge” and “London”, like “alternative” perhaps, are not very accurate and may relate more to political struggles than to precise aesthetic intentions.

Clasp. Late modernist poetry in London in the 1970s. edited Robert Hampson and Ken Edwards. Memories of the ‘alternative‘ scene in London in the 1970s. This partly inspired me to write Nothing is Being Suppressed because it is so bad. The poets involved couldn’t remember anything about the 70s, the description is just like 2017 and no recognition is offered that things were different in 1973. The exceptions are David Miller and Sinclair. It is likely that they can remember the time because they are autobiographical writers and they have spent their writing lives remembering and are good at it. This presents a divergent theme, namely that process-based writers who do not use introspection as part of the compositional process don’t fix past states of mind and can’t recall them, so can’t write about the past. They really can’t remember it! This raises further questions about how you can write without evoking states of mind, and whether you can say anything about other people’s states of mind while discarding your own as bourgeois illusions or whatever.
Part of the bad recollections is that the poets list names of writers they hung out with but then don’t have anything to say about what impression these other people made on the first-person subject, what experiences they were going through, or how they interacted with the ‘subject’. This kind of material is just not on offer. So what comes over is a profound lack of interest in other people. If you wanted to know how real-life interactions influenced the choice of aesthetic processes, you are going to be disappointed. I don’t find that this kind of writing evokes the past in a meaningful way, and meanwhile the lists read like lists of certified qualifications in an application form, for a grant or a job. Each name serves to legitimise the writer, but the overall product serves no aesthetic function, it is more a claim to property and status. The wish to be included in lists is reflected in a belief that you can record cultural history by making lists. No real description process has taken place.

There is a volume of memoirs, mainly in the 70s, by people who supposedly pioneered modern-style poetry in places outside the South. They thought they were modern because they hadn’t ever met anyone who really was modern. It is called CUSP and isn’t very convincing. It did reveal that talking about the Cambridge and London schools pissed off people with plenty of self-esteem who lived somewhere else. I am quite happy to avoid this by not describing local scenes. Was there a geographical component to taste? It is hard to say. Maybe I was influenced by editing letters between John Hall and David Chaloner (1969-70). Hall was in Devon and Chaloner was in Manchester. These were terrific letters, you can see poetry happening before your eyes. Conclusion – if you couldn’t read the poems, you couldn’t take part in the new scene. But if you could – you were part of it. So much of the cultural process was based on the postal service, as a way of getting hold of books. This means that geography fades into a secondary place.

It is quite plausible that the audience precedes the poem. That is, a micro-audience, maybe as small as one person. The group is the source of style. The history of these little groups is the history we have to recover.

Below is a passage that was cut from the book –
>>British Poetry since 1970 (1982, ed. Peter Jones & Michael Schmidt) is an account of the period which reflects the limitations of the “quality reviewers”. This essay volume shows a very significant narrowing of vision since its predecessor of 1972. It’s hard to see it as anything except a symbol of cultural conservatism, grinding the void because its subject is new poetry and simultaneously denies the existence of anything new. The poets treated are R.S. Thomas, Sisson, W.S. Graham, Davie, Larkin, Tomlinson, Gunn, Hughes, Hill, Heaney, I.H. Finlay, Edwin Morgan, Christopher Middleton, Roy Fisher, Elaine Feinstein, Peter Scupham, Andrew Waterman. Most of these began publishing in the 1940s. The book does not treat any of the poets who began publishing in the 1960s, except Heaney. There is a chapter on three neo-modernist poets, bravo, but all of them were born before 1927. As for the 1970s, it gives them a chapter, but only chooses colourless and insignificant poets. The essays don't give any composite picture, dropping down to a level of detail at which only about 5 poets reach the point of being discussed. So, the thesis is effectively “the continuing story of poets who began publishing in the 1940s and 1950s”. This identifies a cut-off around 1960: at the moment when Mottram identified the Revival as starting, the view of this volume abruptly shuts off, so that no new innovative poets are allowed in. There is a section attributed to “younger poets” but this is really a police operation, locking out the innovative ones while failing to present their ideas or even mention them by name. There is a special young poetry which no-one likes but which does not offend conservatives and can be used to keep exciting poetry out of sight. Both that poetry, and the essay on younger poets, are of a very low standard. An anthology of poems by 19 poets also, strikingly, leaves out anything in the modern style – so that the overlap with Mottram’s list of 46 names is nil. There is a list of works published during the time, running to 450 titles – excellent, good work. It leaves out small presses – not consistently, because titles by J.H. Prynne are included, but generally – so that Allen Fisher and Barry MacSweeney do not feature at all. Consulting the political changes of the time suggests that this “programme statement” is the cultural equivalent of rollback, the reversal of the social and ethical changes of the 60s and 70s. The process involved the radical poetry of the decade being thoroughly cut out of the mainstream world-view. With the exception of one essay, this volume reflects that process rather than leading the charge against modernity.
So, no generalisations are offered. Either nothing happened, or the contributors are not attuned to what was new during the decade. Perhaps they had a resistance to it. It is very difficult to find someone from the conservative school of critics who writes about modern-style poetry. 
D.J. Enright edited the Oxford Book of Contemporary Verse 1945-80, in 1980. My calculation is that the average age of Enright’s contributors in 1980 was 60. One has to ask, contemporary to what. The impression the book gives is of being a rollback analogous to Thatcher and Reagan trying to roll back all the social changes which had happened since the end of the 1950s. Enright supplies an introduction of about 5000 words which explains why he has left out any poetry in the modern style, and so which could be presenting the case against modern poetry. But he does not name any poets, poems, anthologies, or magazines, or any artistic statements, which he might have in mind. He beats up an imaginary opponent. Rational debate is therefore not possible. The received view of the 70s is splintered – basically, you have people who side with Mottram and make modern-style poetry central, and people who silently omit it. The poems in Enright’s anthology are good.<<

I have been dredging through back numbers of magazines to try and find usable reviews of 70s poetry. The conclusion is that most of the important books didn’t get reviewed. But strangely, this tends to diminish guilt. The conservatives weren’t perversely blanking out the good stuff, simply because the reviews (and talk) that would have identified the interesting new stuff were not happening. The pattern is clearly more of the channels being blocked by a high rate of publications and less of conservatives knowingly pushing brilliant new poetry into the darkness. I can’t summarise the debate because there actually was none. It is credible that there was denigration of the other side, as opposed to debate. Disparaging comments based on depersonalising the other faction and reducing them to the butt of jokes are not interesting to dig up, and anyway it’s hard to be sure which texts they are disparaging, even. So, this material is not in my book.

During the decade, Peter Porter reviewed poetry for the Guardian and, from 1973, The Observer, and Jeff Nuttall reviewed poetry for The Guardian (in 1979-81). I have dug these up via the digitised images at newspapers.com. Porter never reprinted his reviews but they contain a lot of information. He reviewed about 100 books during the decade – not really enough. The reviews are short but he had complete mastery of the subject matter. I found these perfectly evocative of the era. I didn’t actually change my text after reading them, to my surprise; their quality is to evoke lines of thought which weren’t commonplace, and which got buried when the industry moved on. He consistently reviewed poets of no eminence, and quite a few of these are largely forgotten. He remarks in 1974 that the new RS Thomas volume is too much influenced by reading ‘Crow’ – again, Thomas is not an important poet, but this is a moment of truth. It is also a moment of truth when he says about a book that he can’t understand it. He says this about three underground writers whom nobody would read now – even that is indicative, he tried very hard to get into the underworld of fugitive publishing, but it was an unmapped landscape. So he read poets we have forgotten and missed all the ones we regard as classic. It’s difficult reviewing new books. I am wondering if anyone grasped the pattern as it was actually happening.
What he actually said (August 1980) was “Birtwhistle and Shepherd are poets whose work I admire and do not understand. Admiration without understanding may be no more than faith, but I can find passages in Tidal Modes and Evidences which appeal with their use of language, a radical shift of sensibility which rules out traditional connections. But so much of their most effective work uses time-hallowed techniques that I wonder whether the broken-backed effect of some of their poetry is not due to impatience and an inability to imagine an audience. In both poets, there is a mixture of the loquacious and the gnomic. Birtwhistle’s ‘Haysaving’ is the most extended piece of writing in either book, but I recommend all readers who are interested in new British poetry to read both carefully. This is native experiment by erudite and restless minds.” The other poet he claimed not to understand was Peter Ackroyd (in 1974). This citation illuminates how there were really two ways of thinking about poetry at work, and how hard it was for older readers to find themselves with the contemporary.  
Porter reviewed BC Leale, and is possibly the only person who noticed what he was doing.

I dug up the reviews which Jeff Nuttall wrote for the Guardian, between 1979 and 1981. Nuttall was writing (exclusively) about small press publications, every month, in a mass-circulation newspaper – this was an interesting breach in the monopoly of the High Street publishing firms.  As a teacher at an art school (Leeds), he was facing classes of students who probably wanted to design clothes and graphics for punk rock groups, and didn't want to read books. They believed in overall styling concepts linked to statements about lifestyle. Nuttall was sucked in by this. But the poets were not doing that and his descriptions of them are projective. His repeated references to the avant garde of about 1910 to 1920 are there because he was teaching that every day, it was his academic stock in trade. Nuttall wanted to view the poetry as an expression of a lifestyle (kinky, singular, anarchistic, on display). I understand that the Guardian hired Nuttall to write about underground poets as a youth cult – so they found it really sexy when Nuttall was writing about Teds, rockers, or Beats, hooligans with distinctive fashion choices. They had no interest at all in underground poets as poets and were irritated by Nuttall trying to take that approach. He was sensitised to style as gesture, like a studded jacket defining rockers, but it may be that the poets weren’t a youth cult. Nuttall worked in the theatre (sorry “performance art”) and did tend to dramatize everything right out of the window. He was reckless and dogmatic about his own position or brand so that he wasn’t really interested in the details of the texts crossing his desk. He was part of a gang and could have been a mouthpiece, but looking back, I’m not sure that anything of what he says is accurate as a representation of what the poets had in mind. 

Sample: “Art is misunderstood in this century because what is its main aspect, cultural sabotage, is treated as entertainment. The fireworks are Molotov cocktails. Uneasy applause follows the burst of machine gun fire from the podium. […] Delirium, real, emulated, or contrived, is a main tool of the poet. Syntax is dismantled either as a result of, or as a means to, delirium. Paul Matthews'essay, The Grammar of Darkness, ranks with […] as a statement of the reason for this. “If I define the universe as meaning we must realise the paradox in this: a poetry of hints and riddles, no longer just in the sounding. The silence too is recognised. 'A frog jumps in', and we listen to the ripple of it long after the words have died away. A poetry with hollows in it, pause and hiatus, to admit the universe. Form always merging, never fixed, formed and chaotic at the same time, allowing for interventions. A language turning into music, playing between sense and nonsense, (they both limit the language). A poetry which has come to the end of itself (and so come close to its beginnings). Thrown back into the crucible." (November 1979) Compare this with what Nuttall says. Is there any resemblance? I don’t think so.  Peter Porter’s Observer reviews are always perceptive but Nuttall wasn’t willing to listen to the poets he was reviewing. I have yet to meet an Underground poet who thought that Nuttall’s explanations connected to their own work. As for Matthews, I have not found this pamphlet of poetics, but the quote is really interesting. I asked him about it when I met him.

2nd Aeon stopped in 1974 but while operating was covering hundreds of publications in each issue, in Peter Finch’s inimitable style of about 20 words each. It would not be possible to recover the era so accurately if we didn’t have 2nd Aeon, and spending hours steeped in it is surely the way to knowledge. I am looking at issue 16/17 (1972?). The magazine lists small press publications only. 22 items from Wales, 11 from Scotland and Ireland, 228 from England. Count unreliable. This includes items which I still want to acquire but which are by now probably quite unobtainable. The list includes “chinese sequence” by John Lucas; I was looking at a book published for John’s 80th birthday this afternoon. JL lives in Nottingham, significantly. Four separate publications by Paul Brown. Four? Have I got this right? Also “these are also wings”, his anthology of surrealist/Dada poetry. Also there are several pages of his poetry in the magazine.
Catalog for eddie warings hydrostatic douche primer
Described as “wardrobe format”, which means that there is a full size coat hanger built into the spine. I would describe this as unusual, but no doubt some Hanging Bishop of small press knowledge will tell me that it was all the rage in ’72.
Le donne di colore
Some wonders that electricity performs
OK, only 3.
I recovered this blip-review from Peter Finch, in 2nd Aeon 15, circa 1973:
>>Death is a Pulpit & Life is a Platform two new hardbacks issued simultaneously, by peter levi. £1.20 & £1.50 respectively. anvil press poetry. 69 king george st, london se10 in death is a pulpit lie five solidly rhetorical live-reading poems, in life is a platform lie the personal, the to-be-read, the poem poems. so the introductions say. levi is a great lyric poet, he is jesuit and his religion naturally hangs often in the body of his poetry. the death is pulpit selection i found the most significant, to me anyway, his long poem "Christmas sermon", dull though its title sounds, is one of the best soul-searching, personal, relevant long poems i've read in ages. its worth buying the book for that alone. not to say that life is a platform doesnt contain a bunch of gems. it does. well turned poems of god, of man, of life in fact. its very difficult to say much more about such an involved & simple poet as levi in a piece like this without taking up 6 or 7 pages. best to say just that i found in both books a poetry rare in the english language. something we need much more of. something that needs to be read.<<
– brilliant and a shining example of someone in the underground reading mainstream poetry and reacting sensitively to it. Over 45 years, Finch has never lost credibility  he always was quick on the uptake and sharp in perceiving artistic processes. The Seventies were a bad time for the Mainstream, but even if you cut it down to fabulous books by Thwaite, Porter, Hooker, and Levi, you still have a significant sector of the whole scene. 

One more thing. Ken Smith, You Again. Last Poems & Other words (2004). This doesn’t answer the questions you would want to pose, but it does contain a good deal of information about Smith. It is useful for dates, and it does reveal what Smith thought about his own poems. Several times there is discussion of a review by Peter Porter which is evidently vital – so why not reprint it? The answer is that You Again is only there to sell more books– and I can’t list it in my nice bibliography for that reason. Smith rejects Porter’s description of him by defining Porter (as a “classicist”) and claiming effectively that everything which doesn’t belong to Porter (thus limited to a repeat of Latin poetry!) is Smith’s rolling domain. This is how most poets respond to criticism, but it’s still really adolescent. None of what Smith says about himself connects to the flaws in his work, it’s reflexive only in a serenely uncritical way.

(PS) Something which includes material relevant to our theme is the Oxford Handbook of Contemporary British and Irish Poetry (2013). I didn’t see this until I had completed the book, it isn’t specifically limited to the Seventies, but the point of view is that of the editor who planned it, who was a Seventies poet, and as a whole it embodies the awareness of someone who lived through the decade and understood it. The majority of the poets discussed were at their zenith in the 1970s, or were at least realising significant work. This is a large-scale work and everyone should read it. Some of the contributors can’t really do literary criticism. It fills in the centre – complaints about the prose response world missing the major poets of the Seventies are made obsolete by this. I have a strange feeling that my work on little-known poets is now the most significant aspect of ‘Nothing is being suppressed’ - a most unwelcome feeling. That shift would require a total replan. Where the title is ‘contemporary’, we have to accept that poets who began their publishing career after 1990 don’t get much of a showing; I don’t want to emphasise this, because the slowness in acquiring artistic knowledge and then in working out how to put it into words is collective and so criticism of it is of little value. The implication of that is that doing critical work on recent poets is to be admired even if the results are flawed and will eventually be discarded. Another implication is that poetry has just become more complex, less accepting of conventions as the means by which a reader will rapidly grasp the artistic intent. I had said "Unfortunately, the 1980s were reached without any substantial reviewing of the new British poetry, and a way of describing it had to be developed much later"; this Handbook solves the problem and does tell you what was happening in the 1970s.

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