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Cluster index: Anthony Howell

The New Versailles.

Anthony Howell: ‘All they are looking for is chic literature
Suited to an Ormolu bookshelf in the hameau de la Reine:
A dalliance in delightful Kentish Town; the owner
In her Busta shorts, the builder in from Dalston.’

‘Love’s Victory’ at Penshurst.

Anthony Howell: ‘Love’s Victory is in effect a poetic oratorio, interspersed with song, wonderfully rendered by the cast, accompanied on viols and arch-lutes by attendant musicians in full costume. For me, it was a delight to hear the arch-lute played in the Baronial Hall at Penshurst, knowing that in the gallery upstairs there’s a wonderful portrait of Mary Wroth, holding an arch-lute as tall as she is herself.’

Roeg elements: innovation and risk.

Anthony Howell: ‘The millennium seems to be wishing upon us the restoration of mawkish and short-sighted values – perhaps not the values of patriotism, fidelity, grace and tradition that preoccupied swathes of nineteenth century verse, but in many ways the appeal is the same. It’s an appeal to the emotions.’

Shame and shamelessness.

Anthony Howell: ‘We should remind ourselves that, while artists may represent horrors – think of Hieronymus Bosch – they should not be accused of endorsing the horrors they reveal. Everything is imaginable. In the words of André Gide, one must dare to be oneself. Why should an angry sense of shame provoke us into trashing artists for revealing nightmares?’

The Secret Lives of Baba Segi’s Wives.

Anthony Howell: ‘The play is like a comb, dripping with the honey of Nigeria, offering us a characteristic love of proverbs and turns of phrase…’

Whistleblower Lit.

Anthony Howell: ‘We live in bewildering and depressing times. Recently, Labour’s victory in the local election was spun as a defeat in all the mainstream papers, even those papers that are supposedly inclined towards socialism. The BBC, which used to host satirical programmes and intense contrarian debates, is now perceived simply as a mouthpiece for government, with prospective employees routinely vetted by our secret services to ensure they adhere to the government line. ITV is little better. Gone are the vivid days of “Spitting Image”.’

A Diatribe.

Anthony Howell: ‘Aren’t you as dismayed about the growth of our arms trade
and how it’s all been done before
or has already been made?’

Sonnets for all tastes.

Anthony Howell: ‘Satire employing the heroic couplet reads simply as a throwback to the eighteenth century – even a writer as talented as Clive James cannot bring it off. The column of satirical couplets is just too much of a cliché. However, intricate formal patterns continue to intrigue poets, whether of a modernist or of a traditionalist persuasion, and the sonnet is enjoying a revival, but has it ever failed to secure its adherents?’

John Ashbery Was a Quiz Kid.

Anthony Howell; ‘Ashbery created intense little collages, and he was a collage in himself. Another artist he admired was Trevor Winkfield – also a poet – and British – whose iconic yet enigmatic paintings have disparate emblems in them which never quite collide, though they ought to; something one can understand the quiz kid responding to; the paintings are full of things which might mean, but do they? A feeling one can get when deep in Ashbery’s lines.’

The New Beauty.

Anthony Howell: ‘As an aesthetic ideal, wealth stimulates a veritable culture of prizes, breaking down the divide which has traditionally separated art from sport. It’s an ideal that stimulates competition and incites envy, isolating one creative from another and thus ensuring against revolution. Very neatly, the rebellious “tradition” of the salon des refusés has been annulled by the oligarchs. ‘

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.’

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. ‘

The longer line.

Anthony Howell: ‘The influence of the poème en prose can be felt, as if the block of its sentences were being chopped up simply for the intake of air, which is fair enough. And there is also an urge to bring poetry nearer to prose, especially the prose of exotic travel and lurid fiction. Jules Verne was very popular among the surrealists and a desire to emulate some of his effects was prevalent at the time of modernism’s debut.’

The prose poem.

Anthony Howell: ‘I am taken by the notion that the prose poem “forsakes the tool of the line break, just as blank verse forsakes rhyme, or free verse forsakes a standardised metre. Art seems to evolve, to grow, when some time honoured tenet is “let go of” – though this tendency to grow by relinquishment often offends pundits and traditionalists – who may accuse blank verse of “not rhyming”, for instance; ignoring the absurdity of their judgement.’

The mastery of the suicide bomber.

Anthony Howell: ‘It is evidence of a weakness in number. There aren’t that many conventional troops either, so the suicide bomber is called to put on a vest. Were this not the case, were there a glut of suicidal believers, surely there would have been 60 be-vested individuals engaged in the recent attacks, not six? The act may fill us with horror, but it’s nothing to the damage wreaked by Bomber Harris over Dresden, or to the damage, mainly collateral, caused by our jets, drones and missiles. We are dealing with gangs rather than armies, and we would be better served by treating eradication as a “police operation”, or a job for the commando elite of our armed forces.’