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Index: Principal Articles

Anthony Rudolf’s literary Wunderkammer.

Harry Guest: ‘The important thing is that silent conversations is a gloriously entertaining and a most rewarding publication. To share the reading experiences of such a poet-scholar-translator-editor-critic is a rare privilege and this book is worthy to be spoken of in company with Montaigne’s Essays, Evelyn’s Diary and Stendhal’s Vie de Henry Brulard.’

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The year-end bedside reading table

Anthony Howell: ‘What makes a poet readable? There cannot be a formulaic answer. This is the problem with the standard model so lauded by our Oxbridge elite – as anally compressed as Ian Hamilton, with a closed form, forever ruled by the dictates of significance and economy, and very tightly organised on the page. ‘

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Poetry of the second person.

Peter Riley: ‘I think Peter Robinson and John Welsh have quite a lot in common, but handle it differently. With Welch again the reader more-or-less inhabits the poet, and within that persona is led through a lot of streets, rooms, hospitals and cemeteries, always with a problem in mind, a melancholy or a lingering dissatisfaction, a need for resolution, suffering from an “enormous pointlessness”. But we are led further, into different places: an art gallery, the inside of a book, a performance of Hamlet aboard a ship off Sierra Leone in 1607, an Asian estate in East London… and sometimes nowhere in particular. So we do not always know where we are, and do not always need to because some poems are securely based in a conceptual focus, and sometimes we do know, except that bits of the poem escape from time to time into some unknown language laboratory, but this happens less and less these days.’

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New Italian poetry.

Hoyt Rogers: ‘It would be difficult to imagine two paths more divergent than those of Francesco Giardinazzo and Marco Genovesi.’

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The by-ways of John Ashbery.

Anthony Howell: ‘For the poet, at least, Ashbery is the model of the art-critic. His manner is urbane, and he refers to Satie and to Wallace Stevens more often than to Cezanne. The melange of the arts evoked by his writing suggests a cafe-society sadly missing these days, now that art-mags are no longer modeled on the Paris Review but gleam at us from the racks, like trade-journals for the purveyance of some non-applied craft.’

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Martin Harrison: ‘pastoral’ without shrubs.

Peter Riley: ‘Martin Harrison’s poems are brilliant and remarkable meditations on moments of perception (or clusters of such moments) most of which take place in the Australian countryside, presumably the “orchard and vine-growing area” in which an earlier blurb says he lives for half the year. The poems have starting-points which are experiences rather than scenes – being somewhere and looking at something, often in a stillness such as dawn, often with a sense of solitude.’

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Therianthropes and vents.

Alan Wall: in some of the earliest representations of ourselves that exist, we have presented ourselves as therianthropes — part human, part animal. We are engaging in that mimetic activity we have subsequently named art, and we are also engaging, as therianthropes, in the impersonation of other creatures or beings. This we can call mimicry, but it is also the activity at the root of ventriloquism, a sacred activity in our earlier history, and since ventriloquism is ultimately the craft of displaced voicings, we have also entered the realm of allegory, which displaces identity, genus and species, giving one type of being the voicing of another, or even personifying an abstract entity.

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Constellations.

Alan Wall: ‘So much is represented as fragmented, not because something completed has been broken up, or an achievable whole not completed, but because this mosaic of discrete pieces actually constitutes the perceptual world of modernity. The camera was designed to capture this kaleidoscopic panorama visually; the essay attempts to capture it linguistically and philosophically. The essay is the formal expression of a world of fragments. Fragments can be connected, of course. They do not have to take the form of fossils, being re-assembled into a form they initially exhibited; they can be chips of stone in a mosaic, each effectively complete in itself. Or they can take the form of the facets which, once assembled, compose the figure of Ambroise Vollard in his portrait by Picasso.’

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Yves Bonnefoy.

Anthony Rudolf: ‘Hier régnant désert (1958), L’Improbable (1959) and Rimbaud par lui-même (1961) changed my life nearly fifty years ago, and remain potent, as transformative elements in life always do. When I read them, I knew I must have a life on the page, because the page is where the forms of life speak to us most deeply. ‘

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Yves Bonnefoy dossier: Index.

Yves Bonnefoy, often acclaimed as France’s greatest living poet, has published nine major collections of verse, several books of tales, and numerous studies of literature and art. He succeeded Roland Barthes in the Chair of Poetics at the Collège de France. His work has been translated into scores of languages, and he is a celebrated translator of Shakespeare, Yeats, Keats, and Leopardi.

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Anthropology, Empire and Modernity.

Alan Macfarlane: ‘Very crudely, the Enlightenment signified the shift from a cyclical view of time, to one of progress, of polishing, of growing rationality. An onward and upward movement of history. The great Enlightenment thinkers laid the foundations for all the modern social sciences, so that by the end of the first Enlightenment paradigm, which could be concluded with the publication of Tocqueville’s Ancien Régime in 1856, the basic nature of modernity, as well as the basic outline of the way in which the West would come to dominate the world, had been established.’

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Polis Chrysochous.

Alana Shilling: ‘To be sure, all archaeological sites contain some version of archeology’s own development. In the case of Polis however, this process appears with cinematic magic akin to the kind that can make Technicolor lilacs bud, bloom and wither in milliseconds. Even today, the site retains a certain purity—seek its antiquity as you might, you can find it only in material traces. Were we to rely solely on written sources, the history of Marion and Arsinoe would be consigned to vague references; their very existence would be suspended in the subjunctive.’

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Curiouser and curiouser.

Anthony Howell: ‘Both fetishism and the carnivalesque have a bearing on the nature of curios. Familiar objects that are invested with more than their due share of interest may have become fetishised and as fetishes they may well feature in cabinets of curiosity. The carnivalesque, that fascination with the world turned upside down may also contribute to the curious – silver plate photographs of Popes and bishops staring into the heavens through the powerful lenses of telescopes in the Vatican observatory induce a vertiginous sense of the topsy–turvy.’

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The incredible Anthony Hecht.

Daniel Bosch: ‘Hecht’s attraction to certain kinds and formulations of words is too common to be insignificant, yet not frequent enough to constitute some sort of radical aesthetic challenge to institutional norms. Something bigger is going on when Hecht pulls out a doozy, or three doozies, something bigger than his urge to describe well or to tell a good story. These outbursts are about him, psychologically, and ultimately, such self-referentiality weakens not only each work individually but…Hecht’s work as a whole.’

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The virtue of patricide.

Alan Wall: ‘It is hard to imagine a Russian iconographer saying that in art one must kill the father. There the tradition, and its continuity, is of the essence. It is only when form is under dynamic interrogation, when art is turning itself inside out, when the new is in radical conflict with the old, that spiritual parricide appears to be in order. Modernism negotiates a crisis of form. The old realism had become, according to Brancusi, ‘a confusion of familiarities’, and the word familiarity is linked morphologically to the word family. So if you want to attack that effectively you will need to go for the head, which is to say the paterfamilias. So shall we modify Picasso’s statement and say, in modern – and certainly modernist – art one must kill the father, because the father still commands that kingdom which represents our ‘confusion of familiarities’? His is the old formality that must be broken up by those excluded from the Salon, the Young Turks of innovation and dissent stirring out there on the street.’

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