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Two Sequences

of poems

Introduced by Anthony Howell.

Versions. Fire Poems.
A collection of fragments

A NOTE ON Nikos and David:

David Plante has been published extensively including in The New Yorker and The Paris Review and various literary magazines. He is a fellow of the Royal Society of Literature. Among his other honours: Henfield Fellow, University of East Anglia, 1975; British Arts Council Grant, 1977; Guggenheim Fellowship, 1983; American Academy and Institute of Arts and Letters Award, 1983. He is an Ambassador for the LGBT Committee of the New York Public Library.  He has been a writer-in-residence at Maxim Gorky Literature Institute (Moscow), the Université du Québec à Montréal, Adelphi University, King’s College, the University of Cambridge, the University of Tulsa, and the University of East Anglia. Plante’s work, for which he has been nominated for the National Book Award, includes Difficult Women (1983), a memoir of his relationships with Jean Rhys, Sonia Orwell, and Germaine Greer; The Ghost of Henry James; and Becoming a Londoner. His most recent book is The Pure Lover: A Memoir of Grief (2009), an elegy to his beloved Nikos Stangos, his partner of forty years. Plante now lives in Lucca, Italy.

Nikos Stangos, born in Athens, died of cancer in 2004, aged 67. His parents, both from old, well-established Greek Turkish families, had been driven to Athens by the Greco-Turkish population exchange of the 1920s. His father was a celebrated architect, and after arriving in London in the ’60s, Nikos became one of the outstanding figures of art publishing in the English-speaking world, while in his native Greece he was a nationally renowned poet. Three decades of Thames & Hudson’s World of Art books are his most familiar monument, with the Penguin Modern Poets series of the 1960s and 1970s further testimony to his inspired commissioning. He was also midwife to the book that has challenged generations of readers into thinking about art, John Berger’s Ways Of Seeing (1972). To quote his Guardian obituary, “Stangos was a major force for the popularisation of high culture. Yet nothing whatever about his work smacked of dumbing down or of sops offered to tempt a supposedly thought-wary public. In his work as an editor, as in his whole demeanour, his impulse was to introduce others to clearer, stronger, more discriminating forms of thought and making.”

Nikos and David were an exemplary couple. As I recall those days, they came to everything, and in the most natural way they acknowledged, supported and encouraged their literary and artistic friends. These versions by David, and his “Fire” sequence, bring memories back for me and remind me how life must inevitably come to terms with loss.

—Anthony Howell.

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