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A Journey through Ruins

Patrick Wright, 18 September 1986

The Infant and the Pearl 
by Douglas Oliver.
Ferry Press, 28 pp., £2, December 1985
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... Douglas Oliver’s books have been appearing since 1969. Slim volumes published in tiny editions by marginal presses, they have escaped all but the slightest measure of attention. This may be the usual story for poets, but Oliver – a former journalist who is now teaching in Paris – is developing an unusual poetic which deserves wider interest ...

The Opposite of a Dog

Jenny Turner, 6 October 1994

Radon Daughters 
by Iain Sinclair.
Cape, 458 pp., £15.99, August 1994, 0 224 03887 7
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... is an easy (and wrong) attack on your position at this stage of discussion,’ writes poet Douglas Oliver in a letter Sinclair quotes, verbatim, in White Chapell. ‘It is that you have involved yourself with a sort of demonology and that doing so was an emotional error akin to that, say, of becoming involved in sex magic.’ ...

Seeing yourself dead

Nicolas Tredell, 21 February 1991

Love in a Life 
by Andrew Motion.
Faber, 62 pp., £11.99, March 1991, 0 571 16101 4
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Three Variations on the Theme of Harm: Selected Poetry and Prose 
by Douglas Oliver.
Paladin, 255 pp., £6.99, November 1990, 0 586 08962 4
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Spoils of War 
by John Eppel.
Carrefour Press, 48 pp., August 1989, 0 620 13315 5
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Music for Brass 
by Brian Waltham.
Peterloo, 64 pp., £5.95, November 1990, 1 871471 20 6
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Lapidary 
by Rosamund Stanhope.
Peterloo, 64 pp., £5.95, November 1990, 1 871471 19 2
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... of Post-Modernism and a desire for an underlying unity of self and history are also evident in Douglas Oliver’s Three Variations on the Theme of Harm. This collection incorporates the long poem ‘The Infant and the Pearl’; ‘An Island that is all the World’, a series of interesting though uneven autobiographical recollections and ...

Elective Outsiders

Jeremy Harding, 3 July 1997

Conductors of Chaos: A Poetry Anthology 
edited by Iain Sinclair.
Picador, 488 pp., £9.99, June 1996, 0 330 33135 3
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Nearly Too Much: The Poetry of J.H. Prynne 
by N.H. Reeve and Richard Kerridge.
Liverpool, 196 pp., £25, April 1996, 0 85323 840 5
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Carl Rakosi: Poems 1923-41 
edited by Andrew Crozier.
Sun & Moon, 209 pp., $12.99, August 1995, 1 55713 185 6
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The Objectivists 
edited by Andrew McAllister.
Bloodaxe, 156 pp., £8.95, May 1996, 1 85224 341 4
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... John James, Chris Torrance, Lee Harwood, Andrew Crozier, Peter Riley, J.H. Prynne, Michael Haslam, Douglas Oliver, Barry MacSweeney, Denise Riley – they must nonetheless wonder, from time to time, whether theirs is a case of having missed the boat which would only have been worth catching if they’d been on it in the first place. Perhaps that is why ...

Colloquially Speaking

Patrick McGuinness: Poetry from Britain and Ireland after 1945, 1 April 1999

The Penguin Book of Poetry from Britain and Ireland since 1945 
edited by Simon Armitage and Robert Crawford.
Viking, 480 pp., £10.99, September 1998, 0 670 86829 9
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The Firebox: Poetry from Britain and Ireland after 1945 
edited by Sean O’Brien.
Picador, 534 pp., £16.99, October 1998, 0 330 36918 0
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... books, as are a number of the poets Motion and Morrison published in Contemporary British Poetry: Douglas Dunn, Anne Stevenson, Craig Raine, James Fenton, Andrew Motion, Derek Mahon, Fleur Adcock, Carol Rumens, Medbh McGuckian, Penelope Shuttle and others. Geoffrey Hill, Dannie Abse, Denise Levertov, Peter Red-grove, U.A. Fanthorpe, Gillian Clarke, Eiléan ...

Every three years

Blake Morrison, 3 March 1988

Fifty Poems 
by Ian Hamilton.
Faber, 51 pp., £4.95, January 1988, 0 571 14920 0
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A Various Art 
edited by Andrew Crozier and Tim Longville.
Carcanet, 377 pp., £12.95, December 1987, 0 85635 698 0
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Between Leaps: Poems 1972-1985 
by Brad Leithauser.
Oxford, 81 pp., £5.95, September 1987, 0 19 282089 3
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Eldorado 
by William Scammell.
Peterloo, 71 pp., £4.50, October 1987, 0 905291 88 3
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Disbelief 
by John Ash.
Carcanet, 127 pp., £6.95, September 1987, 0 85635 695 6
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The Automatic Oracle 
by Peter Porter.
Oxford, 72 pp., £4.95, November 1987, 0 19 282088 5
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Voice-over 
by Norman MacCaig.
Chatto, 64 pp., £5.95, February 1988, 0 7011 3313 9
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... which is evident, too, in the beautifully produced, unostentatious separate recent collections by Douglas Oliver and Anthony Barnett,* contributors to the Carcanet volume. ‘America’ is one acknowledged influence on these poets, though ‘America’ turns out to mean chiefly Ashbery, Olson and Pound. That there are other traditions to look to these ...

Floreat Brixton

Tam Dalyell, 5 December 1985

An Eton Schoolboy’s Album 
by Mark Dixon.
Debrett, 118 pp., £10.95, November 1985, 0 905649 78 8
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... as far as the Death of Dido. Thirty years before, the late Richard Martineau, D.P. Simpson or Oliver Hunkin would have made sure that every boy in his class understood what was being taught. As a 12-year-old who hadn’t done Greek at his prep school, I vividly remember the trouble taken by the late L.S. Bethell to allow me to catch up on the mysteries of ...

His Friends Were Appalled

Deborah Friedell: Dickens, 5 January 2012

The Life of Charles Dickens 
by John Forster.
Cambridge, 1480 pp., £70, December 2011, 978 1 108 03934 5
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Becoming Dickens: The Invention of a Novelist 
by Robert Douglas-Fairhurst.
Harvard, 389 pp., £20, October 2011, 978 0 674 05003 7
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Charles Dickens: A Life 
by Claire Tomalin.
Viking, 527 pp., £30, October 2011, 978 0 670 91767 9
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... in the Marshalsea. It wasn’t the childhood he wanted, so he hadn’t spoken about it. For Robert Douglas-Fairhurst, in his clever new study, the mass of biographies can make Dickens’s life seem as inevitable as a fairy tale, his genius so self-evident that a novelist’s career was certain. But the alternative lives he might have led, as a debtor like his ...

Off-Beat

Iain Sinclair, 6 June 1996

... gathering of Corso’s work, was published in England by Paladin – with a brief introduction by Douglas Oliver that Corso much admired. ‘The speed of mind is still there, along with its timing: how long a vowel lasts, the exact tick or fubbing of a consonant.’ But the series, indifferently promoted, never attracted a serious audience. Titles were ...

The poet steamed

Iain Sinclair: Tom Raworth, 19 August 2004

Collected Poems 
by Tom Raworth.
Carcanet, 576 pp., £16.95, February 2003, 1 85754 624 5
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Removed for Further Study: The Poetry of Tom Raworth 
edited by Nate Dorward.
The Gig, 288 pp., £15, March 2003, 0 9685294 3 7
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... MacSweeney, Wendy Mulford, John James, with decent selections of Bill Griffiths, Allen Fisher, Douglas Oliver. And glimpses of many others, the reforgotten: John Temple, Anna Mendelssohn. It is a truth, unilaterally acknowledged (Cambridge and environs), that Raworth is the man, the only English poet the Americans read. They like, or liked in the days ...

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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... in his new book are ‘Peace, after Tibullus’, written in relaxed hexameters, and a poem about Oliver Plunkett, whose mummified head is kept in a glass case on the altar of Drogheda Cathedral. Trying to estimate what height he was Keeps the soul awake, like the pea under The heap of mattresses under the princess ... Such bizarre perceptions are rarely ...

Cross Words

Neal Ascherson, 17 November 1983

The Story of the ‘Times’ 
by Oliver Woods and James Bishop.
Joseph, 392 pp., £14.95, October 1983, 0 7181 1462 0
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Good Times, Bad Times 
by Harold Evans.
Weidenfeld, 430 pp., £11.95, October 1983, 0 297 78295 9
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... in newspaper offices. Matters came to a head early in 1982 when both the Deputy Editor, Charles Douglas-Home, and the Managing Editor, John Grant, tendered their resignations. The Chairman refused to accept them, and instead asked Evans for his resignation and appointed Douglas-Home to succeed him. After a few days of ...

Attercliffe

Nicholas Spice, 17 May 1984

Present Times 
by David Storey.
Cape, 270 pp., £8.95, May 1984, 0 224 02188 5
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The Uses of Fiction: Essays on the Modern Novel in Honour of Arnold Kettle 
edited by Douglas Jefferson and Graham Martin.
Open University, 296 pp., £15, December 1982, 9780335101818
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The Hawthorn Goddess 
by Glyn Hughes.
Chatto, 232 pp., £8.95, April 1984, 0 7011 2818 6
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... of Benjamin Greave, leading cloth merchant in the Lady Well district. At Making Hall Anne meets Oliver, the boss’s son, and they fall in love. The rest of the book is devoted to the story of their ill-starred affair as it develops and declines against a background of deepening crisis in the fortunes of the community. The Hawthorn Goddess is a book ...

May ’88

Douglas Johnson, 21 April 1988

Les Sept Mitterrand 
by Catherine Nay.
Grasset, 286 pp., frs 96, September 1988, 2 246 36291 1
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France Today 
by John Ardagh.
Secker, 647 pp., £22.50, October 1987, 0 436 01746 6
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Jacques Chirac 
by Franz-Oliver Giesbert.
Seuil, 455 pp., frs 125, April 1987, 2 02 009771 0
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Monsieur Barre 
by Henri Amouroux.
Laffont, 584 pp., frs 125, June 1986, 2 221 04954 3
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The Workers’ Movement 
by Alain Touraine, Michel Wieviorka and François Dubet, translated by Ian Patterson.
Cambridge/Editions de la Maison des Sciences de l’Homme, 322 pp., £35, October 1987, 0 521 30852 6
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The State and the Market Economy: Industrial Patriotism and Economic Intervention in France 
by Jack Hayward.
Wheatsheaf, 267 pp., £32.50, December 1985, 0 7450 0012 6
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France under Recession 1981-86 
by John Tuppen.
Macmillan, 280 pp., £29.50, February 1988, 0 333 39889 0
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... In April 1984 President Mitterrand gave a press conference unlike any that had previously been held under the Fifth Republic. He did not sit at a sombre bureau Louis XV decorated with red, white and blue flowers. He was not playing the part of the professor from the Sorbonne, as de Gaulle had so often done, lecturing his audience on the history of France ...

Poor Man’s Crime

Ian Gilmour, 5 December 1991

The London Hanged: Crime and Civil Society in the 18th Century 
by Peter Linebaugh.
Allen Lane, 484 pp., £25, September 1991, 0 7139 9045 7
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... us, ‘the English Revolution was a conflict among three social forces. The bourgeoisie, led by Oliver Cromwell and organised in Parliament, aroused the English proletariat to make war against Charles I, the High Church and the aristocracy. Having vanquished them, Cromwell then turned against his erstwhile class ally, the many-headed multitude, which during ...

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