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A Gift of a Rose

Fred​ D’Aguiar

25 October 1990
... Two policemen (I remember there were at least two) stopped me and gave me a bunch of red, red roses. I nursed them with ice and water mixed with soluble aspirin. The roses had an instant bloom attracting stares and points from children; toddlers cried and ran. This is not the season for roses everyone said, you must have done something to procure them. I argued I was simply flashed down and the roses ...

Three Poems

Fred​ D’Aguiar

5 August 1993
... Buttocks Pert cushions with a limited supply of blood, and heat. Buns that can grab. They rob the high-jumper of that extra centimetre, costing the world record. They deny the ballet dancer that perfect straight line while tucking in the tail. An innocent slap on the backside is never an innocent slap on the backside. We would take from our buttocks to save our face but not from our face to save our ...

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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... from their white hands Like so many messy table napkins. In some ways, Dabydeen stands in the position of McIlvanney or the Dunn of Barbarians: certainly some of the writers anthologised by Fred D’Aguiar as representatives of ‘Black British Poetry’ make interesting links with other analogous predicaments. D’Aguiar himself takes as the epigraph to his introduction Stephen Dedalus’s ...

Ever so comfy

James Wood

24 March 1994
Collected Poems 1953-1993 
by John Updike.
Hamish Hamilton, 387 pp., £20, October 1993, 0 241 00167 6
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Dante’s Drum-Kit 
by Douglas Dunn.
Faber, 145 pp., £6.99, November 1993, 0 571 17055 2
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Old Men and Comets 
by D.J. Enright.
Oxford, 64 pp., £6.99, November 1994, 0 19 283176 3
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Plato’s Ladder 
by Stephen Romer.
Oxford, 79 pp., £6.99, November 1992, 0 19 282986 6
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The Country at My Shoulder 
by Moniza Alvi.
Oxford, 56 pp., £6.99, September 1993, 0 19 283125 9
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British Subjects 
by Fred​ D’Aguiar.
Bloodaxe, 64 pp., £5.95, July 1993, 1 85224 248 5
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Night Photograph 
by Lavinia Greenlaw.
Faber, 54 pp., £5.99, October 1993, 0 571 16894 9
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Nil Nil 
by Don Paterson.
Faber, 53 pp., £5.99, April 1993, 0 571 16808 6
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Out of Danger 
by James Fenton.
Penguin, 103 pp., £7.50, December 1993, 0 14 058719 5
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... at my feet is blown by a tornado. Below me, fields level out to clouded grass. St Michael’s Tower – noble and lonely as the last chess-piece on the board. How I could hug a man like this! Fred D’Aguiar is garrulous. He has plenty to write about (racism, the police, exile and homecoming, the bombardments of Englishness) but not enough artistry. His nine-sonnet sequence, ‘Sonnets from ...

A Necessary Gospel

Sean O’Brien

6 June 1996
Dear Future 
by Fred​ D’Aguiar.
Chatto, 206 pp., £14.99, March 1996, 0 7011 6537 5
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... It was as a poet that Fred D’ Aguiar first won recognition, with his 1985 collection Mama Dot, set in the Guyanese village where the English-born D’ Aguiar was sent to be educated. The place is dominated by Mama Dot, the ...

Dialect does it

Blake Morrison

5 December 1985
No Mate for the Magpie 
by Frances Molloy.
Virago, 170 pp., £7.95, April 1985, 0 86068 594 2
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The Mysteries 
by Tony Harrison.
Faber, 229 pp., £9.95, August 1985, 9780571137893
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Ukulele Music 
by Peter Reading.
Secker, 103 pp., £3.95, June 1985, 0 436 40986 0
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Hard Lines 2 
edited by Ian Dury, Pete Townshend, Alan Bleasdale and Fanny Dubes.
Faber, 95 pp., £2.50, June 1985, 0 571 13542 0
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No Holds Barred: The Raving Beauties choose new poems by women 
edited by Anna Carteret, Fanny Viner and Sue Jones-Davies.
Women’s Press, 130 pp., £2.95, June 1985, 0 7043 3963 3
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Katerina Brac 
by Christopher Reid.
Faber, 47 pp., £8.95, October 1985, 0 571 13614 1
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Skevington’s Daughter 
by Oliver Reynolds.
Faber, 88 pp., £8.95, September 1985, 0 571 13697 4
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Rhondda Tenpenn’orth 
by Oliver Reynolds.
10 pence
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Trio 4 
by Andrew Elliott, Leon McAuley and Ciaran O’Driscoll.
Blackstaff, 69 pp., £3.95, May 1985, 0 85640 333 4
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Mama Dot 
by Fred​ D’Aguiar.
Chatto, 48 pp., £3.95, August 1985, 0 7011 2957 3
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The Dread Affair: Collected Poems 
by Benjamin Zephaniah.
Arena, 112 pp., £2.95, August 1985, 9780099392507
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Long Road to Nowhere 
by Amryl Johnson.
Virago, 64 pp., £2.95, July 1985, 0 86068 687 6
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Mangoes and Bullets 
by John Agard.
Pluto, 64 pp., £3.50, August 1985, 0 7453 0028 6
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Ragtime in Unfamiliar Bars 
by Ron Butlin.
Secker, 51 pp., £3.95, June 1985, 0 436 07810 4
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True Confessions and New Clichés 
by Liz Lochhead.
Polygon, 135 pp., £3.95, July 1985, 0 904919 90 0
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Works in the Inglis Tongue 
by Peter Davidson.
Three Tygers Press, 17 pp., £2.50, June 1985
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Wild Places: Poems in Three Leids 
by William Neill.
Luath, 200 pp., £5, September 1985, 0 946487 11 1
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... for late starters. But Andrew Elliott, in the Trio 4 collection, is ‘only’ 24: the best of these three Northern Irish poets, he is a mellifluous teller of fairytales, though in a downbeat idiom. Fred D’Aguiar, meanwhile, who was born in London but brought up in Guyana, is ‘only’ 25. It shows a bit. The poems in English are awkward in syntax, uppity, rough at the edges. He writes more ...

Going Electric

Patrick McGuinness: J.H. Prynne

7 September 2000
Poems 
by J.H. Prynne.
Bloodaxe/Folio/Fremantle Arts Centre, 440 pp., £25, March 2000, 1 85224 491 7
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Pearls that Were 
by J.H. Prynne.
Equipage, 28 pp., £4, March 1999, 1 900968 95 9
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Triodes 
by J.H. Prynne.
Barque, 42 pp., £4, December 1999, 9781903488010
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Other: British and Irish Poetry since 1970 
edited by Richard Caddel and Peter Quartermain.
Wesleyan, 280 pp., $45, March 1999, 0 8195 2241 4
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... found in the Penguin, Picador, Harvill or Faber anthologies. The editors give us a spread of generations, from Brian Coffey (1905-95) and Jonathan Griffin (1906-90) to Catherine Walsh (b. 1964) and Fred D’Aguiar (b. 1960), and represent a wide diversity of poetic practices. They also tell us the names of another fifty-odd poets they would have liked to put in – ‘significant omissions’ we can ...

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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... Dead, in the Falkland Islands, 1982’, which O’Brien includes, exemplifies the kind of politically engaged poem we should have more of. Although Ken Smith, Tony Harrison, Linton Kwesi Johnson, Fred D’Aguiar and David Constantine can be found in one or both anthologies, we get the sense, in Armitage and Crawford especially, that ‘democratic’ has dwindled into a synonym for talking ...

Urban Messthetics

John Mullan: Black and Asian writers in London

18 November 2004
London Calling: How Black and Asian Writers Imagined a City 
by Sukhdev Sandhu.
Harper Perennial, 498 pp., £9.99, November 2004, 0 00 653214 4
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... creates just what we do not get in the writings of Equiano and Sancho: the particularities of Georgian London, its tastes and smells, the ‘offal and ash’ of its streets. Equiano turns up again in Fred D’Aguiar’s long poem Sweet Thames (1992). He is described as he sails up the Thames for the first time at the end of the 1750s. ‘So vehemently does he implore Equiano to "give me your hand ...

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