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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 ...

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, see pastoral machines Romanticised, re-made as guillotines; Or, Goya’s captive, face a firing-squad; Or, Goya’s soldier, be condemned to hear Eternity in the museum of death – Your moment after triggering – and with The horror of aesthetics in your ears ...
... 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 week In May, my place-mark in ‘The Dill Pickle ...

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 second floor’s green comfort, Allowing nature and her modern inwit Create an indoor dusk, a room like art ...

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 ...

Blessed, Beastly Place

Douglas Dunn, 5 March 1981

Precipitous City 
by Trevor Royle.
Mainstream, 210 pp., £6.95, May 1980, 0 906391 09 1
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RLS: A Life Study 
by Jenni Calder.
Hamish Hamilton, 362 pp., £9.95, June 1980, 0 241 10374 6
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Gillespie 
by J. MacDougall Hay.
Canongate, 450 pp., £4.95, November 1979, 0 903937 79 4
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Scottish Satirical Verse 
edited by Edwin Morgan.
Carcanet, 236 pp., £6.95, June 1980, 0 85635 183 0
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Collected Poems 
by Robert Garioch.
Carcanet, 208 pp., £3.95, July 1980, 0 85635 316 7
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... its mark on Europe and America. An ancient city, a capital, with authors of all kinds, from Gavin Douglas to James Boswell to Annie S. Swan, Sir Compton Mackenzie and a thousand others: the subject is God’s own gift to the sifter of anecdotes and the historian of large-scale cultural change. Trevor Royle tackles it with affection and enthusiasm. Admirable ...

Everything is susceptible

Douglas Dunn, 20 March 1980

Poems 1962-1978 
by Derek Mahon.
Oxford, 117 pp., £5.75, November 1979, 0 19 211898 6
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The Echo Gate 
by Michael Longley.
Secker, 53 pp., £3, November 1979, 0 436 25680 0
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Poets from the North of Ireland 
edited by Frank Ormsby.
Blackstaff, 232 pp., £6.50, October 1979, 9780856402012
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... to try to place the Irish flower alongside Rosenberg’s poppy, and the desert flower of Keith Douglas’s ‘Desert Flowers’. It seems to me that Longley’s poetry arises from a Protestant conscience which takes satisfaction from the certainties of country life and the securities of domesticity. Rebelliously placing his faith in poetry itself, Mahon ...

Scots wha hae gone to England

Donald Davie, 9 July 1992

Devolving English Literature 
by Robert Crawford.
Oxford, 320 pp., £35, June 1992, 9780198112983
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The Faber Book of 20th-Century Scottish Poetry 
edited by Douglas Dunn.
Faber, 424 pp., £17.50, July 1992, 9780571154319
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... himself are mavericks, like Tony Harrison and (very implausibly) the Larkin who befriended Douglas Dunn, once his Scottish neighbour in Hull. He ignores the pair (both provincials, of course) whom Kenner singled out as the most honourable exceptions: Charles Tomlinson, who applauded William Soutar, and Basil Bunting, who befriended MacDiarmid. Yet ...

Dialect with Army and Navy

David Wheatley: Douglas Dunn and Politovsky, 21 June 2001

The Donkey’s Ears: Politovsky’s Letters Home 
by Douglas Dunn.
Faber, 176 pp., £7.99, May 2000, 0 571 20426 0
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The Year's Afternoon 
by Douglas Dunn.
Faber, 81 pp., £7.99, October 2000, 0 571 20427 9
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... up from history for a commission he received from the Ferens Art Gallery in Hull in 1983, Douglas Dunn has made him the narrator of his book-length poem The Donkey’s Ears. It’s been a long journey for Politovsky this time round as well: after leaving the poem for many years Dunn picked it up again in ...

Labouring

Blake Morrison, 1 April 1982

Continuous 
by Tony Harrison.
Rex Collings, £3.95, November 1982, 0 86036 159 4
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The Oresteia 
by Aeschylus, translated by Tony Harrison.
Rex Collings, 120 pp., £3.50, November 1981, 0 86036 178 0
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US Martial 
by Tony Harrison.
Bloodaxe, £75, November 1981, 0 906427 29 0
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A Kumquat for John Keats 
by Tony Harrison.
Bloodaxe, £75, November 1981, 0 906427 31 2
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... and the beauty of labour – lacking first-hand knowledge of the material they deal in. Douglas Dunn, impeccably proletarian and Left-inclining, once wrote memorably about a backstreet in Hull – but he, it turns out, is Scottish. And D.J. Enright’s vivid account of a working-class childhood, The Terrible Shears, is really more prose ...

Morituri

D.A.N. Jones, 23 May 1985

Secret Villages 
by Douglas Dunn.
Faber, 170 pp., £8.95, April 1985, 0 571 13443 2
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Miss Peabody’s Inheritance 
by Elizabeth Jolley.
Viking, 157 pp., £7.95, April 1985, 0 670 47952 7
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Mr Scobie’s Riddle 
by Elizabeth Jolley.
Penguin, 226 pp., £2.95, April 1985, 0 14 007490 2
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The Modern Common Wind 
by Don Bloch.
Heinemann, 234 pp., £9.95, May 1985, 0 434 07551 5
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Fiskadoro 
by Denis Johnson.
Chatto, 221 pp., £9.50, May 1985, 0 7011 2935 2
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... clucking and tutting,   Sighing or saying that it served her right, The bitch! However, Douglas Dunn’s heroine persuades the other women to laugh with her, and the lawyer men are taken with ‘her rugged aplomb’. This story was for the New Yorker. The second story, ‘Twin Sets and Pickle Forks’, is about a Scottish tea-room run by Miss ...
Selected Poems 1964-1983 
by Douglas Dunn.
Faber, 262 pp., £9.95, November 1986, 0 571 14619 8
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Terry Street 
by Douglas Dunn.
Faber, 62 pp., £3.95, November 1986, 0 571 09713 8
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Selected Poems 1968-1983 
by Paul Muldoon.
Faber, 109 pp., £8.95, November 1986, 0 571 14603 1
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Essential Reading 
by Peter Reading and Alan Jenkins.
Secker, 230 pp., £9.95, October 1986, 0 436 40988 7
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Stet 
by Peter Reading.
Secker, 40 pp., £5.95, October 1986, 0 436 40989 5
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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 widely acclaimed Elegies (1985). Terry Street and the two following volumes, The Happier Life and Love or Nothing, were well received as plain unvarnished poems of Northern suburbia: and now the inventory of working-class clothes, foods and pastimes has a certain period interest ...

Callaloo

Robert Crawford, 20 April 1989

Northlight 
by Douglas Dunn.
Faber, 81 pp., £8.95, September 1988, 0 571 15229 5
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A Field of Vision 
by Charles Causley.
Macmillan, 68 pp., £10.95, September 1988, 0 333 48229 8
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Seeker, Reaper 
by George Campbell Hay and Archie MacAlister.
Saltire Society, 30 pp., £15, September 1988, 0 85411 041 0
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In Through the Head 
by William McIlvanney.
Mainstream, 192 pp., £9.95, September 1988, 1 85158 169 3
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The New British Poetry 
edited by Gillian Allnutt, Fred D’Aguiar, Ken Edwards and Eric Mottram.
Paladin, 361 pp., £6.95, September 1988, 0 586 08765 6
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Complete Poems 
by Martin Bell, edited by Peter Porter.
Bloodaxe, 240 pp., £12.95, August 1988, 1 85224 043 1
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First and Always: Poems for Great Ormond Street Children’s Hospital 
edited by Lawrence Sail.
Faber, 69 pp., £5.95, October 1988, 0 571 55374 5
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Birthmarks 
by Mick Imlah.
Chatto, 61 pp., £4.95, September 1988, 0 7011 3358 9
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... the pulls and torsions of that question produces much of the verse of Heaney, Harrison and Dunn, but it also produces very different kinds of poetry. Martianism had nothing to do with Mars, everything to do with home, the place where Craig Raine (like Murray or Dunn) feels richest. Surely Martianism comes from the ...

Risks

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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Elegies 
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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... by someone studying a tour brochure in Henley. I do not recommend a dip in these tideless waters. Douglas Dunn, fortunately but tragically, is the absolute opposite of a vapid poet like Levi. Dunn’s elegies were written after the death of his wife, Lesley Balfour Dunn, in March ...

Drinking and Spewing

Sally Mapstone: The Variousness of Robert Fergusson, 25 September 2003

‘Heaven-Taught Fergusson’: Robert Burns’s Favourite Scottish Poet 
edited by Robert Crawford.
Tuckwell, 240 pp., £14.99, August 2002, 1 86232 201 5
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... Fergusson’ want to discuss Fergusson’s ‘Elegy, on the Death of Scots Music’. Douglas Dunn tells us that ‘spirited elegy, of a kind that trades more on celebration than mourning, is characteristic of the male Scottish mind.’ It takes a while to recover from the massiveness of that statement, and its inappropriateness ...

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