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How Dirty Harry beat the Ringo Kid

Michael Rogin, 9 May 1996

John Wayne: American 
by Randy Roberts and James Olson.
Free Press, 738 pp., £17.99, March 1996, 0 02 923837 4
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... in Vietnam. We see them anyway, collected in Slotkin’s book and in Warrior Dreams (1994) by James William Gibson. When Philip Caputo joined the Marines, he saw himself ‘charging up some distant beachhead, like John Wayne in Sands of Iwo Jima’. ‘War movies with John Wayne’ sent Ron Kovic to Vietnam: ‘Yes, I gave my dead dick for John ...

Kooked

Mark Ford, 10 March 1994

Selected Poems 
by Charles Olson, edited by Robert Creeley.
California, 225 pp., $25, December 1993, 0 520 07528 5
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Selected Poems 
by Robert Duncan, edited by Robert Bertholf.
Carcanet, 147 pp., £9.95, October 1993, 1 85754 038 7
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... Black Mountain College – Robert Creeley, Denise Levertov, Ed Dorn, Robert Duncan and Charles Olson. Of all these it was Charles Olson who engaged most directly and continuously with the implications of Pound’s poetics. The Maximus Poems can he read as a massive attempt to heal what ...

Dysfunctional Troglodytes with Mail-Order Weaponry

Iain Sinclair: Edward Dorn, 11 April 2013

Collected Poems 
by Edward Dorn.
Carcanet, 995 pp., £25, November 2012, 978 1 84777 126 1
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... holes in sponsored periodicals. The scene was being set for the arrival in Colchester of Charles Olson, last rector of the now collapsed and dispersed Black Mountain College, theorist and psychopomp of ‘Projective Verse’ and open-field poetics, author of the great post-Poundian epic The Maximus Poems, and headline star of Donald Allen’s anthology. At ...

Ambitions

Robert Blake, 18 December 1980

Harold NicolsonA Biography: Vol. 1, 1886-1929 
by James Lees-Milne.
Chatto, 429 pp., £15, November 1980, 0 7011 2520 9
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Harold Nicolson Diaries 1930-1964 
by Stanley Olson.
Collins, 436 pp., £9.50, October 1980, 0 00 216304 7
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... Harold Nicolson was a diarist of genius who would have loved to make a success of public life or literature. He was an able but not outstanding diplomat who retired at 43, a journalist and broadcaster of talent, an MP for ten years and a junior minister in 1940-41. His literary achievements were voluminous, but few of his forty-odd books have lasted, apart from his study of Curzon, his lives of King George V and of Tennyson, and his Byron, The Last Phase ...

Nayled to the wow

Tom Shippey, 7 January 1993

The Life of Geoffrey Chaucer 
by Derek Pearsall.
Blackwell, 365 pp., £19.95, September 1992, 1 55786 205 2
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A Wyf ther was: Essays in Honour of Paule Mertens-Fonck 
edited by Juliette Dor.
University of Liège, 300 pp., June 1992, 2 87233 004 6
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Hochon’s Arrow: The Social Imagination of 14th-Century Texts 
by Paul Strohm.
Princeton, 205 pp., £27.50, November 1992, 0 691 06880 1
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... On the one hand, we have the 493 documented mentions of him brought together in the Crow and Olson Life Records, a body of paper which makes Chaucer far better evidenced as a person than Shakespeare two centuries later; on the other, there is the persistent refusal of these documents to see him as what we think we know he was (the major poet of his ...

Use Use Use

Robert Baird: Robert Duncan’s Dream, 23 October 2013

Robert Duncan: The Ambassador from Venus 
by Lisa Jarnot.
California, 509 pp., £27.95, August 2013, 978 0 520 23416 1
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... the shadows that are forms fall. As a mature poet, Duncan was accused by his friend Charles Olson – along with just about everyone else who read his work – of wanton myth-mongering, a charge against which he didn’t even try to defend himself. Olson, he wrote, suspects, and rightly, that I indulge myself in ...

Is R2-D2 a person?

Galen Strawson, 17 June 2015

Staying Alive: Personal Identity, Practical Concerns and the Unity of a Life 
by Marya Schechtman.
Oxford, 214 pp., £35, March 2014, 978 0 19 968487 8
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... philosophers of personal identity who are called ‘animalists’ (notably Paul Snowdon and Eric Olson). But the concept of a person contains pressures that push us to say different things. We have for example to consider diseases that radically alter personality. People have divorced on the grounds that ‘this isn’t the person I married,’ and one ...

Little Lame Balloonman

August Kleinzahler: E.E. Cummings, 8 October 2014

E.E. Cummings: The Complete Poems, 1904-62 
edited by George James Firmage.
Liveright, 1102 pp., £36, September 2013, 978 0 87140 710 8
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E.E. Cummings: A Life 
by Susan Cheever.
Pantheon, 209 pp., £16, February 2014, 978 0 307 37997 9
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... different kinds of poet too: Robert Graves, Dylan Thomas, Octavio Paz, Louis Zukofsky and Charles Olson. As did any number of critics: Edmund Wilson, Harry Levin, Jacques Barzun, Lionel Trilling, Guy Davenport. Were all of them hornswoggled, taken in by the surface polish and acrobatics of Cummings’s style and, those who knew him, by his great personal ...

Lyrics and Ironies

Christopher Ricks, 4 December 1986

The Alluring Problem: An Essay on Irony 
by D.J. Enright.
Oxford, 178 pp., £12.95, October 1986, 0 19 212253 3
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Czeslaw Milosz and the Insufficiency of Lyric 
by Donald Davie.
Cambridge, 76 pp., £15, September 1986, 0 521 32264 2
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... what worried and diffident readers have said over two generations about Eliot and Pound, Charles Olson and Basil Bunting – an important point, since it reminds us that, if C.H. Sisson mostly chooses to stay within the conventions of the lyrical standpoint, there were English-language poets before him who had not.’ But C.H. Sisson, irrespective of the ...

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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... not been taken on board in Britain: they engage with a post-Poundian poetic tradition (Charles Olson, Edward Dorn, Robert Duncan, George Oppen) of a kind that gives modern American poetry its variety and experimentalism. Gunn and Davie are included in both anthologies, but to read their collected poems (the next step after reading Davie’s superb ‘Time ...

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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... accents’. Home is a place with a dialect and tradition. Sometimes writers, whether James Macpherson or T. S. Eliot, attempt to make up a tradition which stands in lieu of home. A tradition isn’t just an academic’s card index, it can also be a writer’s life-support-system; writing is usually a solitary activity, but encouragement and ...

Vindicated!

David Edgar: The Angry Brigade, 16 December 2004

The Angry Brigade: The Cause and the Case 
by Gordon Carr.
ChristieBooks, 168 pp., £34, July 2003, 1 873976 21 6
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Granny Made Me an Anarchist 
by Stuart Christie.
Scribner, 423 pp., £10.99, September 2004, 0 7432 5918 1
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... 14 months later. Escaping arrest, Soliah had gone underground, changed her name to Sara Jane Olson and built a new life for herself as the wife of a suburban doctor. In December 2001, she was sentenced to five years and four months’ imprisonment (later extended to 14 years) for attempting to blow up two Los Angeles police cars with a pipe bomb in ...

Hi, Louise!

Stephanie Burt: Frank O’Hara, 20 July 2000

In Memory of My Feelings: Frank O’Hara and American Art 
by Russell Ferguson.
California, 160 pp., £24.50, October 1999, 0 520 22243 1
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The Last Avant-Garde: The Making of the New York School of Poets 
by David Lehman.
Anchor, 448 pp., $16.95, November 1999, 0 385 49533 1
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Frank O’Hara: Poet among Painters 
by Marjorie Perloff.
Chicago, 266 pp., £13.50, March 1998, 0 226 66059 1
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... what looks like a Post-It note to a friend, or versified notes on a Jackson Pollock painting, a James Dean movie or ‘the music of Adolphe Deutsch’. You may also get one of many enticing, informal, secretly-complex poems that sound like nobody else ever has: How can you start hating me when I’m so comfortable in your raincoat the apples kept bumping ...

The Magic Bloomschtick

Colin Burrow: Harold Bloom, 19 November 2019

The American Canon: Literary Genius from Emerson to Pynchon 
by Harold Bloom, edited by David Mikics.
Library of America, 426 pp., £25, October 2019, 978 1 59853 640 9
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... of writing. There are chapters on black authors (Ralph Ellison, Zora Neale Hurston, Toni Morrison, James Baldwin, Robert Hayden, Jay Wright) as well as on 12 women writers. Toni Morrison (‘a child of Faulkner’) is given shorter shrift than she deserves and told off for being ideological, but some of these chapters – particularly the one on ...

Dislocations

Stephen Fender, 19 January 1989

Landscape and Written Expression in Revolutionary America: The world turned upside down 
by Robert Lawson-Peebles.
Cambridge, 384 pp., £35, March 1988, 0 521 34647 9
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Mark Twain’s Letters. Vol. I: 1853-1866 
edited by Edgar Marquess Branch, Michael Frank and Kenneth Sanderson.
California, 616 pp., $35, May 1988, 0 520 03668 9
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A Writer’s America: Landscape in Literature 
by Alfred Kazin.
Thames and Hudson, 240 pp., £15.95, September 1988, 0 500 01424 8
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... analysis. The famous descriptions in Notes of the natural stone bridge over a branch of the James River, and of the passage of the Potomac through the Blue Ridge Mountains, establish the picturesque by means of cunningly juxtaposed evocations of the sublime and the beautiful. (The first of these terms, perhaps because American topography was supposed ...

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