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An Alternative Agenda

Ian Hamilton, 25 June 1987

... Is threatening to weep.) And from the TLS, Jerry Treglown Forever savouring some private joke, And Ian Hamilton, All-purpose lit. hist. hack, Invisible behind a cloud of smoke. This trio you can secretly disdain: Back numbers Here to wave the Impo flag We’re here to piss on. We post-cols Have actually assembled here To make it terminally clear Who runs ...

Two Poems

Ian Hamilton, 2 March 1989

... Responsibilities Imagining you on your own, I’m vigilant. You’ve heard me, I can tell. A rustle in the kitchen leaves Above your head, a semi-stifled click Somewhere below, an errant chime An hour or so into your sleeplessness: Ghost tremors, They don’t keep you company, Not now, and they won’t bring me back, Not this time. ‘Please Leave me alone,’ I’ve heard you cry And you have heard me rustle in reply, Or click, or chime: ‘Don’t make me go ...

Two Poems

Ian Hamilton, 14 January 2002

... Pretending not to Sleep The waiting rooms are full of ‘characters’ Pretending not to sleep. Your eyes are open But you’re far away At home, am Rhein, with mother and the cats. Your hair grazes my wrist. My cold hand surprises you. The porters yawn against the slot-machines And watch contentedly; they know I’ve lost. The last train is simmering outside, and overhead Steam flowers in the station rafters ...

Three Poems

Ian Hamilton, 2 February 1984

... Familiars If you were to look up now you would see The moon, the cars, the ambulance, The elevated road back into town.                                                      The river weeds You crouch in seem a yard shorter, A shade more featherishly purple Than they were this time last year; The caverns of ‘your bridge’ Less brilliantly jet black than I remember them ...

Larkinesque

Ian Hamilton, 19 March 1987

... Your solicitor and mine sit side by side In front of us, in Courtroom Number Three. It’s cut and dried, They’ve told us, a sure-fire decree: No property disputes, no tug-of-love, No bitching about maintenance. Well done. All that remains Is for the Judge to ‘wrap it up’, and that’s how come We sit here, also side by side (Although to each of us we are ‘the other side’), And listen to Forbes-Robertson and Smythe, Our champions, relax ...

Two Poems

Ian Hamilton, 19 April 2001

... Family Album In this one you look miles away And I’m wearing a tolerant half-smile That seems to say I’ve fixed things rather well. What things? The turreted edifice behind us I don’t recognise at all. Nor can I place These avenues of trees, abundant But municipal, well-kept. It’s evidently summertime, and getting late, A little before supper-bell, I’d guess, Or prayers ...

Four Poems

Ian Hamilton, 3 August 1995

... Biography Who turned the page? When I went out last night his Life was left wide-open, halfway through, in lamplight on my desk: The Middle Years. Now look at him. Who turned the page? Steps Where do we find ourselves? What is this tale With no beginning and no end? We know not the extremes. Perhaps There are none. We are on a kind of stair. The world below Will never be regained; was never there Perhaps ...

Four Poems

Ian Hamilton, 26 July 1990

... Soliloquy ‘We die together though we live apart’ You say, not looking up at me, Not looking up.                        ‘I mean to say, Even were we actually to die in unison, Evaporating in each other’s arms, We’d still have ended up – well, wouldn’t we? – Dying for a taste, our first and last, Of unaloneness:                we’d have dreamed, Dreamed up a day utterly unclouded By the dread that not quite yet but soon, Although, please God, not very soon, We will indeed be whispering Wretchedly, in unison, your breath on mine: I might as well be dead, Or we might ...

A to Z

Ian Hamilton: Schmidt’s List, 4 March 1999

Lives of the Poets 
by Michael Schmidt.
Weidenfeld, 960 pp., £22, October 1998, 0 297 84014 2
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A Critical Difference: T.S. Eliot and John Middleton Murry in English Literary Criticism, 1919-28 
by David Goldie.
Oxford, 232 pp., £35, October 1998, 0 19 812379 5
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... other day, as part of my Schmidt studies, I came across the following from DD to MS: ‘Death to Ian Hamilton and all his works.’ And there is more. I too, you see, was editing a magazine back then, the New Review (this was the early Seventies), and Davie, it seems, didn’t like it. ‘We have a patriotic duty,’ he thundered to poor Schmidt, ‘to ...

Ugly Stuff

Ian Hamilton, 15 October 1981

Beyond the Pale 
by William Trevor.
Bodley Head, 256 pp., £6.95, October 1981, 9780370304427
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The Black House 
by Patricia Highsmith.
Heinemann, 258 pp., £6.95, September 1981, 0 434 33518 5
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Lantern Lecture 
by Adam Mars-Jones.
Faber, 197 pp., £6.95, September 1981, 0 571 11813 5
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... William Trevor is bewitched by childhoods and by second childhoods: the ‘grown-up’ bit in between is for him a dullish swamp of lies, commerce, lust and things like that. For Trevor, the only way to recapture childish purity is somehow to hang on until you’re hugely old, or to have a grown-up life that is so deeply marked by memories of childhood that all the other grown-ups think you’re odd ...

Snowdunnit

Ian Hamilton, 8 November 1979

A Coat of Varnish 
by C.P. Snow.
Macmillan, 349 pp., £5.95
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... The date of that evening was Tuesday, 6 July. That particular day had no significance in anything which was to follow; but there came to be some significance, which strangers didn’t completely understand, in the actual neighbourhood. Yes, you’d better read that again. Not all of C.P. Snow’s sentences are as fruitlessly demanding as this pair, but quite a few of them (certainly the longer ones) do tend to move with a similarly elephantine tread ...

Blowing It

Ian Hamilton, 6 March 1980

Breaking Ranks 
by Norman Podhoretz.
Weidenfeld, 385 pp., £7.95, February 1980, 0 297 77733 5
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... freeze froze even deeper. ‘But, but’ – and this with genuinely aghast reproach – ‘but, Ian, really, why? This little scene, or something very like it, was played out on at least three other occasions during my short visit. For me, the ‘why’ was clear enough. I knew Podhoretz somewhat, he was the editor of a literary/intellectual magazine ...

The Power of Des

Ian Hamilton: The screen rights to English Premier League Football, 6 July 2000

... senior. But can he, or anyone, be truly senior on ITV? Is it possible to turn from, say, Ian Wright’s dreadful Chicken Tonight advertisement to, say, the ruminative countenance of Bobby Robson without feeling the need to interject some Des-like jest? Lynam’s current technique, with each commercial interruption, is to pretend that nothing much has ...

Diary

Ian Hamilton: Wold Cup for Alexithymics, 15 July 1982

... didn’t realise he was wearing track-suit trousers.’ The jester here was Ian St John, who from the very start has worn the air of a man who has been given a bum posting – his Group having, in the main, gone in for timid goalless draws. Sad, this, because St John is one of the few ‘experts’ who really does seem to have some ...

Diary

Ian Hamilton: Novels for the Bright, Modern Woman, 1 July 1982

... You may not have noticed it, but this has been an important month in the shaping of our more low-grade literary values. Or so it says in the brochure in front of me: ‘Do you want to know what’s out in June? All the old ideas about readers of women’s novels. That’s what’s out, baby!’ The brochure, some twelve glossy pages of it, with a big girl in keep-fit (or is it ballet?) gear as centrefold, has been issued by Pan Books, and it inaugurates a new series of paperback novels, novels on which Pan are about to lavish ‘their biggest ever advertising campaign ...

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