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Index: Notes & Comment

Ringing the changes.

Paul Scott Derrick: ‘Berengarten’s book rings its own personal set of changes on the ‘Book of Changes’. He has constructed a brilliantly complex poetic sequence – or sequence of sequences – that grows out of the wisdom of the Chinese past, implicit in the structures and images of the Chinese language, and will extend its subtle tentacles of words into the minds of future readers. ‘

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What are perversions?

Anthony Howell: ‘The text is appropriately supplied with examples from films, and Benvenuto makes interesting points about our propensity to seek out and happily identify with the perverse vicariously via fiction – drama and film enabling a catharsis similar to a positive outcome from analysis, though it appears that analysis has no obligation to come to a conclusion: one can go on seeing one’s analyst as one might any confessor. The devil ensures that temptation is an ongoing affair.’

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Ludwig Wittgenstein.

Alan Wall: ‘Although many of the pieces published in these two impressive volumes would be known already to Wittgensteinians, many more would not. Unless you have not only bought anthologies like Rush Rees’s Recollections of Wittgenstein, but also followed such publications as Guy’s Hospital Reports and the Irish Medical Times, or Hermathena, then some of these essays will be new to you. Together they present a composite image of the man which is hugely impressive. Perhaps each century can produce one man like Wittgenstein; certainly not many more. ‘

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Basil Bunting.

Anthony Howell: ‘Gone are the mannerisms of Bunting’s apprenticeship: the phrases reminiscent of the way Pound might conclude a snide portrait in Personae, the fusions of word with word that works for Gerald Manley Hopkins but not for the aspiring Northumbrian. Bunting denigrates form in the poem – harking back to an earlier versification crying/before the rules made poetry a pedant’s game – but his poem is nevertheless very finely crafted. The stone-mason’s chisel is a leitmotif accentuating this; indeed, the work, which Bunting describes as an autobiography, continually contrasts a sense of crafting with the sweetness of love-making. ‘

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Quixote on the Brooklyn Bridge.

Nigel Wheale: ‘”10:04″ is an advance on “Leaving the Atocha Station”, you might say, even though the first novel was already brilliantly original, smart in the same vein as its successor; the interposed graphic moments seem more nuanced, less blatant kinds of intervention, in the second book. I admire these novels so much because they seem to be making a new kind of factual fiction, poetic narrative, but as always, they are a part of some larger wave.’

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England as a pelting farm.

Michael Blackburn: ‘This is Labour’s attempt to look like it’s facing up to a problem and intending to fix it. Except it’s a con. The anti-English, anti-patriotic impulse is now so ingrained in the modern left it will be impossible to get rid of it even if they depose the ultra-left, Brit-hating Corbyn currently in charge. ‘

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The far side of Farage.

Michael Blackburn: ‘ Contrary to the media portrayal of him, Robinson emerges from his descriptions of these experiences as a level-headed and generous man who would rather live in peace with his neighbours than be in conflict with them. Perhaps if he were more Middle England he wouldn’t be treated so badly: “Lads like me march and we’re thugs. Middle class tweedies march and the nation is speaking.” It’s the class thing again.’

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Refer Madness.

Robert McHenry: ‘It is perhaps telling…that in his prologue to the book Lynch uses the words “information” and “knowledge” an equal number of times, but when, in the epilogue, he turns to Google and Wikipedia, he writes “information” twelve times and “knowledge” not once.’

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Peter Lanyon’s ‘Soaring Flight’.

David Nowell Smith: ‘Lanyon took advantage of a different sensation of speed, a different view of earth and sky, so as to blend the layering and juxtaposition of perspective so prevalent in these early works with a reimmersion in sensual experience. The drama of the gliding paintings lies in the encounter of a finite, frail body with the multiplication of perspectives, of intimacy with power.’

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Scruton and ‘the nonsense machine’.

Michael Blackburn: ‘It’s a compliment to the quality of Scruton’s writing that he makes this journey through the execrable inanities of modern leftism enjoyable, informative and often amusing. He’s happy to be vitriolic. I like his spearing of Eagleton, for instance, who passes “all art and literature through the grievance mangle, so as to squeeze out the juice of dominance,” which is reminiscent of Harold Bloom’s description of the leftist literary project as “the School of Resentment”.’

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With Warhol on the move.

Charles Plymell: ‘One can learn more about the aesthetic of the movement of the age and its art from this book than from all the museum tracts and critical treatments, more about its neuromorphic seeds, its painting, its poetry (of the MacLeish dictum “doesn’t have to mean but be”) than from all the modern art history books. Symbol becomes icon, icon becomes symbol. ‘

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Translating André du Bouchet.

Hoyt Rogers: ‘…there’s no such thing as a perfect translation. If readers have little or no French, then we owe them—not a word by word translation like those old interlinear texts we used to crib with in Greek class—but the best poem the translator is capable of making while staying true to the basic meaning, and above all the spirit, of the original. To paraphrase the parting shot of [Peter] Riley’s review, when I am reading a translation of poetry from a language I don’t know, I’d rather be overpaid than shortchanged. I want to know what the poem says; but to some degree, I also want to know what it connotes, what it evokes, and how it would sound if the poet had written it in English. In poetry, some things are lost in translation; but as with Bonnefoy’s version of Yeats, quoted earlier, other things are gained. In any case, there is far more to poetry than a simple string of words.’

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The apophatic poetry of André du Bouchet.

Peter Riley: ”Modernist’ seems a good category for du Bouchet, placing him in such wildly disparate company as Ezra Pound, Dylan Thomas, Wallace Stevens, Paul Celan and many others, all arguably united in spite of everything, by some kind of prioritising of the word which disrupts articulation. The main trouble is that that prioritisation is taken as more than descriptive but also prescriptive, and poets not committed to it wholeheartedly become ‘compromised.’

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The poet as ‘strategic’ ironist.

Alex Wong: ‘I think it is fair to say that postmodern culture has been both good and bad at irony. Some of its most interesting achievements, and some of its most boring symptoms, have been in the realm of irony. Certain ironic effects, certain elements of ironic sensibility, have flourished in genuinely vibrant ways, but the prevalence of low-level irony has reached a dismaying level, and it has offered an excuse for all sorts of dullness.’

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Fear and loathing in the Royal Festival Hall.

Anthony Howell: ‘There is a lack of breadth that still dogs the selection process, I think as a direct result of prize-winners apotheosising into judges. In the end it all begins to feel samey. There are far too many “of”s – usually attached to death, love, or something equally gloomy, and so the poems not only feel samey, they feel doomy. Again and again we were urged to confront the death of a loved one or our own death. Surely there is more to poetry than a maudlin sense of nostalgia for those no longer with us?’

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