Douglas Dunn

Douglas Dunn most recent collection of poems is St Kilda’s Parliament.

Poem: ‘Birch Room’

Douglas Dunn, 1 April 1982

Rotund and acrobatic tits explored Bud-studded branches on our tallest birch tree, A picture that came straight from her adored, Delightfully composed chinoiserie.

My girl was four weeks dead before that first Green haunting of the leaves to come, thickening The senses with old hopes, an uncoerced Surrender to the story of the Spring.

In summer, after dinner, we used to sit Together in our...

Poem: ‘Western Blue’

Douglas Dunn, 5 November 1981

The Navy groaned through its traditions. Fats Domino sang ‘Blueberry Hill’; It came through a hatch from America. The mothballed minesweepers pretended to be A chorus line of the Western World, Young ladies fallen into disrepute.

This dusk is that dusk, its perfect duplicate, Down to the four swans, an evening mist That turns the conifers to Western Blue. They’ve closed the...

A pressed fly, like a skeleton of gauze, Has waited here between page 98 And 99, in the story called ‘Bliss’, Since the summer of ’62, its date,

Its last day in a trap of pages. Prose Fly, what can ‘Je ne parle pas français’ mean To you who died in Scotland, when I closed These two sweet pages you were crushed between?

Here is a green bus-ticket for one...

Blessed, Beastly Place

Douglas Dunn, 5 March 1981

Literary travellers, getting off the train at Waverley Station, Edinburgh, must have wondered if there are other cities which can boast a main point of entry, an introductory landmark, named after a novel. Consider the possibilities: Bleak House would suit Liverpool Street; Illusions Perdues would serve for the Gare du Nord; Great Expectations would whet the appetites of Scottish tyros arriving at King’s Cross.

Poem: ‘Saturday’

Douglas Dunn, 16 October 1980

Driving along the B 1248 We pass such villages as Wetwang, or North Grimston of descending Z-bends. The Wolds are rolling for our benefit; The long woods stride toward the eastern shore. Frost sparks refrigerated ploughland to A fan of silver ribs, good husbandry In straight lines, going downhill to a point, A misted earthen star, half-frost, half-ground. And we are going to our country...

Poem: ‘The Gallery’

Douglas Dunn, 17 April 1980

See, how this lady rises on her swing Encouraged by the brush of Fragonard, As light as love, as ruthless as the Czar, Who, from her height, looks down on everything.

When on a canvas an oil-eye of blue Has tiny fissures, you can stand behind, Imagine time, observe, and condescend. Wink at, and spit on, those who are not you.

Out of the eye of Christ, you might see God; Or, from your swing,...

Everything is susceptible

Douglas Dunn, 20 March 1980

Derek Mahon’s Poems 1962 – 1978 includes most of his three earlier books, to which he has added a few uncollected poems and about 35 pages of new work. Readers will discover that poems with which they thought themselves familiar have been retitled and in some cases extensively revised. Although precocious in that there are poems here which must have been written when Mahon was as young as 20 or 21, he looks as if he has been compensating for a lack of productivity by going over earlier work once again. Form and style in contemporary poetry are of course, highly contentious matters. There are celebrated poets who appear to have no idea about line-endings, who cannot shape a verse, or who sacrifice one aspect of poetry, usually rhythm, for the sake of emphasising another, most often visual imagery. Mahon is above so compartmentalised a notion of poetry. But his revisions suggest uncertainty as much as they do a growing maturity.

Letter
SIR: The gist of D.A.N. Jones’s review of my Secret Villages (LRB, 23 May) is a hand-knitted typology of the magazines in which my stories first appeared. I confess to finding his approach a masterstroke of misrepresentation, and as such quite original. After all, malice is seldom convincing unless delivered with a slick assurance. Jones suspects that I trim the way I reflect Scotland in my stories...

Among the more unusual relics of the fishing industry in Hull’s maritime museum is a holed fragment of the trawler Mino, sunk off the Dogger Bank in October 1904. At the time, the Russian...

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Ever so comfy

James Wood, 24 March 1994

Every handful of John Updike’s silver has its square coin, its bad penny, its fake. This exquisitely careful writer tends to relax into flamboyance: it is the verbal equivalent of...

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Scots wha hae gone to England

Donald Davie, 9 July 1992

In books that go on about how the English have imposed their language and their manners on other English-speaking nations (Australian, Canadian, Scottish and Welsh and Irish, others), what is...

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Puck’s Dream

Mark Ford, 14 June 1990

D.J. Enright recently celebrated his 70th birthday. In commemoration, Oxford University Press have prepared a rather lean Selected Poems, and a volume of personal reminiscences and critical...

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Callaloo

Robert Crawford, 20 April 1989

‘Where do you come from?’ asks one of the most important questions in contemporary poetry – where’s home? Answering the pulls and torsions of that question produces much...

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Douglas Dunn’s Selected Poems includes the greater part of his published poems, from Terry Street (published in 1969, and reissued with this selection) through four more volumes to the...

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Risks

Tom Paulin, 1 August 1985

Recently I received a somewhat smug letter from one of the editors of PN Review asking me to contribute to yet another symposium on the state of critical chassis which still persists in Great...

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Morituri

D.A.N. Jones, 23 May 1985

Some of the stories in Secret Villages were published in the New Yorker, some in Encounter and some in Punch. It is interesting to compare the three styles. Those for the Americans make Scotland...

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Kelpers

Claude Rawson, 17 June 1982

The title poem of St Kilda’s Parliament is about a local institution ‘quite unlike Westminster’, a gathering ‘by interested parties to discuss the day’s work and any...

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