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Alan Brownjohn

Alan Brownjohn most recent volume of poetry, A Night in the Gazebo, was published in 1980.

Something Audenesque for a conclusion?    In dignified, indented, limestone lines? But in Wystan’s geology hills were permanent,    Whereas human geography constantly changes, That being its only constancy. We reach plateaux in life    When friends seem likely always to be there, Changeless features in the landscape. And then –

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Sweden’s Turn for the Worse

Alan Brownjohn, 10 October 1991

The young man from the Russian Republic who had come to the Stockholm election wake had also, rather surprisingly, witnessed the final days of the Walton by-election in Liverpool. ‘Well, I am confused,’ he replied bemusedly to the obvious question. ‘I thought democracy was one style, and it is many.’ He would not be drawn on which he preferred, or on whether anything he had seen in the West could be adapted to his own circumstances. He was still digesting the differences between British and Swedish elections, from the door-step activity at the grass roots all the way up to the manner in which campaigns are presented and reported on television.

Poem: ‘A Pride’

Alan Brownjohn, 10 January 1991

In a cold October twilight, down towards An estuary beach of mud and stones, Three lifelong friends lurch and scramble over banks Of red soil, fallen from cliffs which one afternoon, Fifty years ago, broke and carried the whole of a church, Its churchyard and half a road to the shores below.

They plunge headlong on crumbling cakes of earth Where tipped-out garbage has mingled with the rubble,...

Poem: ‘Profoundest Love’

Alan Brownjohn, 6 November 1986

She gave him sand from the Tyrrhenian Sea, He sent her a present of sand from the shores of Lake Erie.

He dropped some grains of her sand on the edge of the lake, But kept the others, it helped him remember her. She mingled a bit of his sand with the verge of the sea, But retained some grains in a tiny box because They reminded her of him.

And this was happening everywhere in the world, Whole...

Poem: ‘In a Restaurant’

Alan Brownjohn, 15 September 1983

The facing mirrors showed two rooms Which rhymed and balanced beautifully, So everything we wore and ate Shone doubly clear for you and me.

In the next image after that Life seemed the same in every way: Green bottles and white tablecloths And cutlery as clean as day;

But in the third, things looked a mite Less brilliant than in the first two ... A sort of mist was falling on The features of...

(for John Betjeman)

Miss Frith was put on processing; that glue And all those labels. Not seven months there, And Mr Mortimer, who always said ‘Miss Frith’ and never ‘Gill’ or ‘Gillian’, Right through the informal Nineteen-Sixties, Rested one day his two hands on her hips As she sat cross-legged on the high stool At the labelling desk. She did not squirm,...

Letter

Donald’s Duck

22 August 1996

I too was in the Oval crowd when Donald Bradman was dismissed for a duck in his final test innings. Unlike John Sturrock (LRB, 22 August) – though I stand to be corrected, and Mr Sturrock is backed up by John Arlott’s famous commentary on Bradman’s two-ball innings – I seem to remember that Bradman did not ordinarily ‘stop’ the first ball Eric Hollies sent down....
Letter
Abroad when it was printed, I have only just seen Göran Bengtson’s long letter (Letters, 21 November 1991) concerning my piece on the Swedish General Election (LRB, 10 October 1991). Mr Bengtson says he cannot recognise his Sweden in my report. I barely recognise my report in his letter. He does spot one slip: the New Democrat MP Bert Karlsson indeed spells his name with a ‘K’...

A Messiah in the Family

Walter Nash, 8 February 1990

Of the extraordinary life and activities of Shabbetai Tzevi, or Sabbatai Zebi (1626-76), sage, scholar, mystic, apostate and self-proclaimed Messiah, an important figure in the history of...

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Parodies

Barbara Everett, 7 May 1981

Donald Davie has proposed that Eliot’s Quartets are in some sense a work of self-parody, with ‘The Dry Salvages’ in structure and style parodistic of the quartets that preceded...

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