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Poet at the Automat

Eliot Weinberger: Charles Reznikoff, 22 January 2015

... Charles Reznikoff​ may be the most elusive poet in American poetry and his book-length Testimony the most elusive long poem of modernism. He is remembered as a kind of New York saint, an urban Emily Dickinson: the unknown poet, walking the city streets, writing intense, seemingly matter-of-fact lyrics about things he saw and heard ...

‘A Naughty House’

Charles Nicholl: Shakespeare’s Landlord, 24 June 2010

... in the parish of St Giles without Cripplegate, and a woman from Whitechapel called Frances Williams. The charge was fornication. Though not in itself unusual, the charge had an extra twist, repeated with minor variations in most of the entries relating to it: ‘they were all 4 seene in bed together at one tyme.’ The documentation is scanty, and we ...

This Condensery

August Kleinzahler: In Praise of Lorine Niedecker, 5 June 2003

Collected Works 
by Lorine Niedecker, edited by Jenny Penberthy.
California, 471 pp., £29.95, May 2002, 0 520 22433 7
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Collected Studies in the Use of English 
by Kenneth Cox.
Agenda, 270 pp., £12, September 2001, 9780902400696
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New Goose 
by Lorine Niedecker, edited by Jenny Penberthy.
Listening Chamber, 98 pp., $10, January 2002, 0 9639321 6 0
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... Madison, is 34 miles north-west and Milwaukee about 60 miles away, east-northeast. Jonathan Williams, of Jargon Press, visited Niedecker in 1962, a year before her second marriage to Albert Millen and subsequent move to Milwaukee: Miss Niedecker, I guess in her fifties by now, lives in a tiny green house out at Black Hawk Island . . . Right out in back ...

What Philosophers Dream Of

Geoffrey Hawthorn: Bernard Williams, 2 July 2015

Essays and Reviews 1959-2002 
by Bernard Williams.
Princeton, 435 pp., £24.95, January 2014, 978 0 691 15985 0
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... going to say better than you understand it yourself’, Gilbert Ryle said of the young Bernard Williams, ‘and sees all the possible objections to it, all the possible answers to all the possible objections, before you’ve got to the end of your sentence’. Williams’s declared enemies in philosophy ...

Eunice’s Story

Hilary Mantel, 20 October 1994

The Unredeemed Captive: A Family Story from Early America 
by John Demos.
Knopf, 325 pp., $25, July 1994, 0 394 55782 4
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... is an incident from the War of the Spanish Succession. The thread of history stretches from Charles II, last of the Spanish Habsburgs: from his dead hands across an ocean, to the bound hands of John Williams, a minister of religion in Deerfield, a small settlement in New England. Europe’s conflicts are echoed and ...

Making It Up

Raphael Samuel, 4 July 1996

Raymond Williams 
by Fred Inglis.
Routledge, 333 pp., £19.99, October 1995, 0 415 08960 3
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... This biography opens with a vivid chapter on Raymond Williams’s funeral. Entitled ‘Prologue, in Memoriam’, it transports the reader to Clodock Church, ‘a plain little building’ in the foothills of the Black Mountains. It is a comfortless day, Fred Inglis tells us. ‘The light fell crooked and the road fell wrong ...

Sprawson makes a splash

John Bayley, 23 July 1992

Haunts of the Black Masseur: The Swimmer as Hero 
by Charles Sprawson.
Cape, 307 pp., £15.99, June 1992, 0 224 02730 1
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... ever and anon the bubbling cry/Of some strong swimmer in his agony’). In this enchanting book Charles Sprawson comments on the romantic tendency to regard a watery plunge as the ideal therapy for romantic ills, for Sénancour’s ‘inexhaustible discontent, languor and homesickness’. Those words of Matthew Arnold, half yearning and half ...

His One Eye Glittering

August Kleinzahler: Creeley’s Chatter, 20 May 2021

The Selected Letters of Robert Creeley 
edited by Rod Smith, Peter Baker and Kaplan Harris.
California, 467 pp., £25, March 2020, 978 0 520 32483 1
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... Logorrhoea:​ Charles Olson, Robert Duncan and Robert Creeley were all afflicted with it. I only ever witnessed Duncan’s performances – free-form, extended, mostly improvised soliloquies. The one I remember best was at the poet Carl Rakosi’s house. It was many years ago, but I think he touched on Plato, Beethoven, Milton, Tom Thumb, Lysistrata, the genus Asterias (starfish) and the song ‘Penny Lane ...

Flirting with Dissolution

Mark Ford: August Kleinzahler, 5 April 2001

Live from the Hong Kong Nile Club: Poems 1975-90 
by August Kleinzahler.
Faber, 82 pp., £8.99, September 2000, 0 571 20428 7
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... purely for their own sake. This returns us to Kleinzahler’s New Jersey precursor, William Carlos Williams, and his deceptively simple rallying cry, ‘no ideas but in things’. Of course the things that get thrown up by the New Jersey landscape are rarely conventionally beautiful, yet many of Kleinzahler’s most compelling poems work by splicing together ...

The Virgin

David Plante, 3 April 1986

... had its front paws between her breasts, and, its tongue out, it stared at her as she spoke to it. Charles, the husband, undressed and hung his clothes askew on the silent butler. When he took off his underpants, he held them in his hands a moment, expecting his wife to look towards him naked. She didn’t. About to throw his underpants on the floor, where his ...

Short Cuts

Andrew O’Hagan: Don’t panic, 13 December 2007

... Panicology (Viking, £18.99) is the work of two statisticians, Simon Briscoe and Hugh Aldersey-Williams, who show signs of knowing everything there is to know about the right reasons for being afraid. It turns out that Armageddon, like everything else, can be something of a lifestyle choice, and is considered by many people to be a must-go travel ...

Past Masters

Raymond Williams, 25 June 1987

Joachim of Fiore and the Myth of the Eternal Evangel in the 19th Century 
by Marjorie Reeves and Warwick Gould.
Oxford, 365 pp., £35, March 1987, 0 19 826672 3
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Beauty and Belief: Aesthetics and Religion in Victorian Literature 
by Hilary Fraser.
Cambridge, 287 pp., £25, January 1987, 0 521 30767 8
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The Correspondence of John Ruskin and Charles Eliot Norton 
edited by John Bradley and Ian Ousby.
Cambridge, 537 pp., £45, April 1987, 0 521 32091 7
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... What can we possibly say of the claim that ‘the first great revolutionary movements in Europe’ were all ‘more or less imbued with the ideas of Joachim of Fiore’? Or, if ‘more or less’ offers an escape clause, what can we say of another claim: that ‘Joachim created the aggregate of symbols which govern the self-interpretation of modern political society to this day’? Or that ‘it is hardly too much to claim that the vague and powerful assumptions we all make about historical transition have their roots in Joachism’? ‘Aggregate of symbols’, ‘vague and powerful assumptions’, ‘more or less imbued’: whatever the actual history, these phrases bear the mark of very recent times; all were written, in fact, within the last twenty years ...

No Longer Merely the Man Who Ate His Boots

Thomas Jones: The Northwest Passage, 27 May 2010

Arctic Labyrinth: The Quest for the Northwest Passage 
by Glyn Williams.
Allen Lane, 440 pp., £25, October 2009, 978 1 84614 138 6
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Franklin: Tragic Hero of Polar Navigation 
by Andrew Lambert.
Faber, 428 pp., £20, July 2009, 978 0 571 23160 7
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... the new maps that could only be made by sending men beyond the edges of the old maps. Glyn Williams’s Arctic Labyrinth: The Quest for the Northwest Passage is an engrossing account of four centuries of exploration, as expedition after expedition tried to negotiate a course through the vast, multitudinous, close-set and ice-locked archipelago to the ...

Flowering and Fading

Michael Irwin, 6 March 1980

Wrinkles 
by Charles Simmons.
Alison Press/Secker, 182 pp., £4.95, January 1980, 9780436464904
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Devotion 
by Botho Strauss, translated by Sophie Wilkins.
Chatto, 120 pp., £5.50, January 1980, 0 7011 2421 0
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The Followed Man 
by Thomas Williams.
Sidgwick, 352 pp., £5.95, January 1980, 9780399900259
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Reverse Negative 
by André Jute.
Secker, 264 pp., £5.95, January 1980, 0 436 22980 3
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... up the dots, finds himself meagrely rewarded with an abstract design. In The Followed Man Thomas Williams does, as part of his enterprise, tell a complete, even a lavish story. Luke Carr, a writer, whose wife and children have recently died in an air crash, is summoned to New York to prepare a magazine article about a building disaster that has killed 20 ...

Deeper Shallows

Stefan Collini: C.S. Lewis, 20 June 2013

C.S. Lewis: A Life 
by Alister McGrath.
Hodder, 431 pp., £20, April 2013, 978 1 4447 4552 8
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... drafts of work in progress. The leading members of the group, which included the Anglican writer Charles Williams during the years of the Second World War, also seem to have shared a form of conservatism – one with Tory anarchist leanings – that was more cultural than political (and was the more conservative for seeing itself as apolitical). Tolkien ...

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