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Words as Amulets

Ange Mlinko: Barbara Guest’s Poems, 3 December 2009

The Collected Poems of Barbara Guest 
edited by Hadley Haden Guest.
Wesleyan, 525 pp., £33.95, July 2008, 978 0 8195 6860 1
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Women, the New York School and Other True Abstractions 
by Maggie Nelson.
Iowa, 288 pp., £38.50, December 2007, 978 1 58729 615 4
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... If modernism is our antiquity, as T.J. Clark has claimed, then Barbara Guest was a devout classicist. No American poet – with the exception of John Ashbery – so reverently extended early modernist aesthetics into the second half of the 20th century. As Guest put it in her essay ‘Radical Poetics and Conservative Poetry’, ‘everything we loved, emulated, was attached to the lyric modernism of Baudelaire and Mallarmé’s later writing ...

Our Hero

C.H. Sisson, 25 January 1990

Richard Aldington: A Biography 
by Charles Doyle.
Macmillan, 379 pp., £19.95, November 1989, 0 333 46487 7
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... his Army service, which certainly involved episodes of action, but he ventures the remark that ‘Barbara Guest is not entirely unfair when she says that it is only necessary to compare Death of a Hero with Graves’s Goodbye to all that “to realise that Aldington’s experiences were not so desperate or tragic as he would have us ...

Accidents of Priority

John Redmond, 22 August 1996

Can You Hear, Bird 
by John Ashbery.
Carcanet, 128 pp., £9.95, February 1996, 9781857542240
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The Dream of the Unified Field: Selected Poems 
by Jorie Graham.
Carcanet, 220 pp., £12.95, March 1996, 1 85754 225 8
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Selected Poems 
by Barbara Guest.
Carcanet, 220 pp., £12.95, May 1996, 1 85754 158 8
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Selected Poems 1976-1996 
by George Szirtes.
Oxford, 126 pp., £9.99, March 1996, 0 19 283223 9
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Adam’s Dream 
by Peter McDonald.
Bloodaxe, 64 pp., £6.95, March 1996, 1 85224 333 3
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... set of questions. Carcanet’s increasingly impressive list of American poetry also includes Barbara Guest’s Selected Poems. Like Ashbery, whose work she admires. Guest frequently uses the vocabulary and tone of art criticism ‘hard edges’, ‘colour ...

It’s me you gotta make happy

Andrea Brady: John Wieners, 29 July 2021

Yours Presently: The Selected Letters of John Wieners 
edited by Michael Seth Stewart.
New Mexico, 333 pp., £60, December 2020, 978 0 8263 6204 9
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... confidence, sometimes shading into condescension. He imitates Olson’s magisterial mode, telling Barbara Guest: ‘There is not enough. I have gone over them three times after receiving them & now again – different … I want more. Maybe this cannot be. That you are not structured such.’ He advises Jimmy Schuyler ‘to develop all you can yr ...

In the Circus

William Wootten: Low-Pressure Poetry, 3 August 2006

The Collected Poems 
by Kenneth Koch.
Knopf, 761 pp., £40, November 2005, 1 4000 4499 5
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... drinking with them at the Cedar Bar, Koch, Ashbery and O’Hara, together with James Schuyler and Barbara Guest, were labelled the New York School of poets. While, in truth, these writers didn’t form anything so well defined as a school, they influenced and encouraged one another and had a shared antipathy to the stuffy academic verse of the time. Koch ...

Little Philadelphias

Ange Mlinko: Imagism, 25 March 2010

The Verse Revolutionaries: Ezra Pound, H.D. and the Imagists 
by Helen Carr.
Cape, 982 pp., £30, May 2009, 978 0 224 04030 3
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... he had scrawled ‘H.D. Imagiste!’ at the bottom of the page. H.D.’s biographer, the poet Barbara Guest, wrote: ‘Would that today the excised poem with its corrections might rest in the Berg Collection in New York, alongside Pound’s similar selective corrections and deletions to The Waste Land of Eliot.’ Later, no one could actually agree ...

Stay Home, Stay Stoned

Andrea Brady: Diane di Prima, 10 March 2022

Revolutionary Letters: Fiftieth Anniversary Edition 
by Diane di Prima.
City Lights, 213 pp., £13.99, September 2021, 978 0 9957162 6 1
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... diminishing frequency, until 1969. William Burroughs, Charles Olson, Robert Creeley, Ed Dorn and Barbara Guest all appeared in its pages. Producing the Floating Bear was an ‘endless rhythm of editing, typing, proofing, printing, collating, stapling, labelling and mailing’, but di Prima understood the importance of controlling the means of ...

Bye-bye, NY

Ange Mlinko: Harry Mathews’s Fever Dream, 18 March 2021

Collected Poems: 1946-2016 
by Harry Mathews.
Sand Paper Press, 288 pp., $28, February 2020, 978 0 9843312 8 4
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... were collaborators. It ran for four issues and included the founders’ work alongside that of Barbara Guest, Frank O’Hara, Edwin Denby and others. Locus Solus was like the intersection of New York, Paris and a Surrealist Arcady.Mathews credited Roussel with showing him that prose could be generated under similar constraints to those that apply to ...

Hi, Louise!

Stephanie Burt: Frank O’Hara, 20 July 2000

In Memory of My Feelings: Frank O’Hara and American Art 
by Russell Ferguson.
California, 160 pp., £24.50, October 1999, 0 520 22243 1
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The Last Avant-Garde: The Making of the New York School of Poets 
by David Lehman.
Anchor, 448 pp., $16.95, November 1999, 0 385 49533 1
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Frank O’Hara: Poet among Painters 
by Marjorie Perloff.
Chicago, 266 pp., £13.50, March 1998, 0 226 66059 1
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... his Harvard friends and their friends – among them the poets Kenneth Koch, James Schuyler and Barbara Guest – becoming part of a social circle that was soon dominated by painters. In 1951 and again from 1955 until his death, O’Hara worked at the Museum of Modern Art, where he became a curator of exhibitions and a well known figure in the New York ...


Tom Paulin, 1 August 1985

On the Contrary 
by Miroslav Holub, translated by Ewald Osers.
Bloodaxe, 126 pp., £8.95, October 1984, 0 906427 75 4
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The Lamentation of the Dead 
by Peter Levi.
Anvil, 40 pp., £2.95, October 1984, 0 85646 140 7
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Collected Poems 
by Peter Levi.
Anvil, 255 pp., £12, November 1984, 0 85646 134 2
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by Douglas Dunn.
Faber, 64 pp., £7.50, March 1985, 0 571 13570 6
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Poems: 1963-1983 
by Michael Longley.
Salamander, 206 pp., £9.95, March 1985, 0 904011 77 1
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Making for the Open: The Chatto Book of Post-Feminist Poetry 
edited by Carol Rumens.
Chatto, 151 pp., £4.95, March 1985, 0 7011 2848 8
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Direct Dialling 
by Carol Rumens.
Chatto, 48 pp., £3.95, March 1985, 0 7011 2911 5
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The Man Named East 
by Peter Redgrove.
Routledge, 137 pp., £4.95, March 1985, 0 7102 0014 5
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... marvellous poems it contains by Anne Stevenson, Fleur Adcock, Dorothy Hewett, Elizabeth Bishop, Barbara Guest, Carolyn Forché, Miriam Waddington, and Eunice De Souza, whose ‘Marriages are made’ is about an Indian arranged marriage where the girl is first given a complete medical examination before being deemed able to do justice to Francisco ...

It’s the worst!

Ange Mlinko: Frank O’Hara’s Contradictions, 3 November 2022

Meditations in an Emergency 
by Frank O’Hara.
Grove, 52 pp., £12.99, March, 978 1 61185 656 9
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... that had at its core himself, Ashbery, Koch and Schuyler; orbiting them were their friends Barbara Guest, Harry Mathews, Fairfield and Anne Porter, and Edwin Denby. Their social circles overlapped with Abstract Expressionist and New York School painters, and tendrils extended out into the worlds of ballet (it was the Balanchine era), classical ...

I do and I don’t

Barbara Wootton, 21 October 1982

The Diary of Beatrice Webb. Vol. I 1873-1892: Glitter Around and Darkness Within 
edited by Norman Mackenzie and Jeanne Mackenzie.
Virago, 386 pp., £15, October 1982, 0 86068 209 9
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... says, a general feeling of discomfort. Beatrice’s father, with marked discourtesy towards his guest, promptly retired to play patience, ‘utterly disgusted with the “supposed intentions” of that guest’. At dinner, ‘after some shyness’, Beatrice writes, ‘we plunged into essentials, and Chamberlain began ...

Two Velvet Peaches

Rosemary Ashton, 17 February 1983

... criticism. Strangely, though, the subject has brought mainly defences of her reticence, such as Barbara Hardy’s eloquent discussion of the ‘hints and implications’ of George Eliot’s handling of sexual relationships in The Appropriate Form (1964), the appropriate chapter of which is now reprinted in Particularities, or, in the George Eliot Centenary ...

Making herself disagreeable

Barbara Wootton, 6 December 1984

The Diary of Beatrice Webb. Vol. III: ‘The Power to Alter Things’ 
edited by Norman Mackenzie and Jeanne Mackenzie.
Virago, 445 pp., £20, October 1984, 0 86068 211 0
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Beatrice and Sidney Webb: Fabian Socialists 
by Lisanne Radice.
Macmillan, 350 pp., £20, June 1984, 0 333 36183 0
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... no clear picture of the behind-the-scenes domestic arrangements. All I can say, as an occasional guest at these functions, is that the menus were impeccably conventional, and the food always good of its kind. On 17 February 1908, the Poor Law Commission published two reports both of which proposed a radical restructuring of the machinery for dealing with the ...

Seriously ugly

Gabriele Annan, 11 January 1990

Weep no more 
by Barbara Skelton.
Hamish Hamilton, 166 pp., £14.95, November 1989, 0 241 12200 7
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... This, say Barbara Skelton’s publishers, is the ‘second – and some people will be relieved to hear, final – volume of her riotous autobiography’. On page one of volume one there is a quotation from Harriette Wilson about the meaning of the term ‘gentleman’ – a subject not really very close to Skelton’s heart ...

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