David Herd

David Herd was books editor of Marxism Today until its closure last year.

Smoking big cigars

David Herd, 23 July 1992

The first collection from the West Coast poet Fred Voss takes its title from the mythical aircraft company which is an amalgam of all the Californian machine shops that Voss has sweated in for the past 15 years. From his inconspicuous position as a machinist on the factory floor, Voss describes the conflicts and frustrations which daily beset the American blue-collar worker. He does so in a voice so unassuming it is sometimes only barely audible behind his technical diction. He is rigorous in his resistance of polemics, and the result of this forbearance is a patient and perspicuous narrative which rarely betrays the immense pressures from which it is forged. As Voss explained to me during a reading tour of this country, he doesn’t want to do anything ‘stylistically’ which might ‘get between his subject and his reader’. This, as he is well aware, is what Whitman was prescribing when he urged the poet not to be meddlesome, but to allow experience to go from the composition without a shred of the composition. Whitman’s word for this is ‘candour’.

Heavy Lifting: John Ashbery

John Palattella, 7 June 2001

A little over thirty years ago, John Ashbery delivered a lecture at the Yale Art School called ‘The Invisible Avant-Garde’, in which he asked whether the distinction between the...

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