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Index: Poetry Notes

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‘What about these birds?’

Peter Riley: ‘Prynne’s readership is indeed secure but the extent to which it is academy-centred is questionable, thus whether it is maintained by pressure of secondary attention rather than a particular kind of pressure the texts exert towards the cultivation of the barely legible.’

From council houses and orphanages.

Peter Riley: ‘Stadnicka is not devoted to difficulty for its own sake but it is as if the movement of the verse is inevitably led into it by having to face realities which cannot be explained or recognised in any other way. While with some poets a highly wrought manner is evident from the first line, Stadnicka’s first lines tend to be problem-free while her last lines ask you to encounter a strong resonance, often connected to disasters such as car crashes.’

The Spring 2021 short shelf.

Peter Riley:’It’s heartening to recognise the honest craft of these encounters with people place and sheep. I’m not sure that the history is 100 percent right in the lurking polemic which emerges in the last piece. Or rather, all Irish problems as colonial problems might be only 90 percent, right?”

What’s happening now.

Peter Riley: ‘The modernity which I sensed on first opening one of [Michelene Wandor’s] books, was probably American, thinking of the break-up of the traditional line in Pound, Williams and others. There might be some connections but I’d rather think of European poetical usages in which bracketed clusters of language are placed into the text grammatically complete, avoiding a reliance on fracture as the poem’s source of energy, like Pierre Reverdy or David Jones.’

A stack of Winter poetry 2021

Peter Riley: ‘The magazine is sharply concerned with the possible inherence of racism in “white” writing, which is a treacherous ground for an octogenarian (of any colour) to venture on. You need to sweep the ground before you with a mine detector.’

An anthology for the apocalypse.

Peter Riley:’While there was some constancy in the apocalyptic script over all this period and from all sorts of poets, it is clear that there was a peak episode when the “Thomas crater”, as Keery calls it, not only invigorated a lot of “standard” ventures into the maelstrom, but also set in motion through direct influence a stronger and more fiery succession. Membership of New Apocalypse was not relevant; it mainly set up an easy target for its enemies to focus on, and some of the mildest adherents were involved in it as well as some of the extremists.’

Industrial-strength empathy.

Peter Riley: ‘Its purpose is on the face of it to broadcast the same message about the urgency of the task, though not, obviously, to extend it to a mass of readers. The difficulties, both of the research itself and of persuading people of power to take it seriously, translate as intensification of the modernity of the text, its power of instant movement from one thought to the next, from echo to discovery, but it is never defeating.’

Peter Riley’s summer poetry 2020.

Peter Riley: ‘They differ greatly from each other, but if my intention has succeeded, they all allow the possibility of what Blake would have called “multiple vision”, however casually or marginally.’

Laura Riding’s many modes.

Peter Riley: ‘There is no escape from the demands of the process, there is no access to the open air, there is no viewing of earthly space. Everything is held in an existential and interpersonal vice from which it cannot escape, but which has its own rewards.’

Summer 2020.

Peter Riley: ‘As the selection is not in sections the three main phases of du Bouchet’s work are not so evident, but they are there, along with some possible exceptions, as when he will allow a degree of intelligibility in some quite late works, as against the ever more insistent counter-point which sets words against each other in a way which could, or arguably does, drain them of transmission, recognition, emotion, or any other linguistic function.’

Spring storms 2020.

Peter Riley: ‘Is this then an avant-garde poetry we are dealing with? If difficulty and inaccessibility are the signs of it, yes it is. But they aren’t, and this is clearly as “mainstream” a poem (if you use that vocabulary) as you’ll find anywhere. However silly it gets, the avant-garde text is active, it seeks readers, it appeals to senses of liberation and free-play.’

How to Write Poetry.

Peter riley: “‘Write Poetry’ claims an objectivity but is inescapably bedded in a history which is not only partial, it is also generational. It is generally held to be one of the best of these manuals and is still much used. It was first published in 1997 when the poetry it urges you to write was already becoming aged; a majority of the poets it refers to were born in the 1910s-30s and are in fact now dead, as are both its authors.”

On the brink of Winter 2019.

Peter Riley: ‘In his new book, Kei Miller realizes out of poetry and hard fact an entire elsewhere, a zone which lies beyond familiarity and order, beyond ownership, a dangerous zone, a fear-zone, a zone of licence and crime where “our deaths blossom like roses in the dark garden behind the house.” All his notations of this territory embrace contradiction.’

Summer 2019: New Poetry.

Peter Riley: ‘The big show-biz style promotions do often enough bestow their blessings on good poets and one of these poets did take that course. But they cannot be relied on, and the applause echoing round the Royal Festival Hall means no more than that at some pub open-mike series in the far counties.’

The ‘Discovery’ of W.S Graham.

Peter Riley: ‘As the “discovery” of Graham is conducted as a crescendo of praise, his achievement is represented as an active and positive series of acts on his part, a triumph of creativity or a “mastery” over his materials. This fails to notice what has been called the “near helplessness” in his confrontation with the independent powers of language, which runs through his career but is especially evident in the fall into utter simplicity when faced with the deaths of his friends and the singularity of love.’