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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. And we are going to our country friends At ...
7 May 1981
... 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 ...

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 ...

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 ...

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 jetty down as ‘dangerous ...
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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... can be defined against it. So, when he looks at English poets, he stays with those he can persuade himself are mavericks, like Tony Harrison and (very implausibly) the Larkin who befriended DouglasDunn, 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 ...

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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... Politovsky, author of From Libau to Tsushima, published after his death in May 1905. Dredging Politovsky up from history for a commission he received from the Ferens Art Gallery in Hull in 1983, DouglasDunn 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 ...
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 literary, cultural and philosophic life lasted for a hundred years to the death of Scott and left 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 ...

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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... meant socialism), but most of them have been haut bourgeois – Stephen Spender writing of cogs, driving-belts and the beauty of labour – lacking first-hand knowledge of the material they deal in. DouglasDunn, 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 ...
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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... Bog Cotton’, show that he is imaginatively concerned with war poetry. In ‘Bog Cotton’, he seems 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 ...

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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... 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 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 ...

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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... the women wear dark shawls and mutter   A hasty word as other women pass, Telling the secret, telling, clucking and tutting,   Sighing or saying that it served her right, The bitch! However, DouglasDunn’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 ...
7 May 1987
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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... DouglasDunn’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 ...
14 June 1990
Selected Poems 1990 
by D.J. Enright.
Oxford, 176 pp., £6.95, March 1990, 0 19 282625 5
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Life by Other Means: Essays on D.J. Enright 
edited by Jacqueline Simms.
Oxford, 208 pp., £25, March 1990, 0 19 212989 9
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Vanishing Lung Syndrome 
by Miroslav Holub, translated by David Young and Dana Habova.
Faber, 68 pp., £10.99, April 1990, 0 571 14378 4
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The Dimension of the Present Moment, and Other Essays 
by Miroslav Holub, edited by David Young.
Faber, 146 pp., £4.99, April 1990, 0 571 14338 5
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Poems Before and After: Collected English Translations 
by Miroslav Holub, translated by Ewald Osers and George Theiner.
Bloodaxe, 272 pp., £16, April 1990, 1 85224 121 7
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My Country: Collected Poems 
by Alistair Elliot.
Carcanet, 175 pp., £18.95, November 1989, 0 85635 846 0
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1953: A Version of Racine’s ‘Andromaque’ 
by Craig Raine.
Faber, 89 pp., £4.99, March 1990, 0 571 14312 1
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Andromache 
by Jean Racine, translated by Douglas Dunn.
Faber, 81 pp., £4.99, March 1990, 0 571 14249 4
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... A poem called ‘Reflections on humanity’ ends with the characteristically deceptive thought for the day ‘That only the very worst literature is foreign:/ That practically no life at all is.’ DouglasDunn thinks that these earlier poems are not only Enright’s best, but that they ‘stand among the best poems of their time’. Part of their conviction derives from their direct engagement with ...

On with the Pooling and Merging

Neal Ascherson: The Incomparable Tom Nairn

17 February 2000
After Britain: New Labour and the Return of Scotland 
by Tom Nairn.
Granta, 336 pp., £15.99, January 2000, 1 86207 293 0
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... Throughout this book, the poet DouglasDunn provides epigraphs and quotations. His final contribution occurs in the last section, ‘Epilogue: The Last Day’, a sort of diary of what Tom Nairn did and felt on the unforgettable rainy Thursday ...

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