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On Roy Fisher

August Kleinzahler

28 June 2017
... It’s always​ Roy Fisher who comes to mind when I consider the phenomenon of those who come to know a place, especially a city, through literature, photography, painting, film or music, or all of the above, and then collide with the fact of the place in real time. I wonder, then, whether the idea of the place, the imaginative site, is displaced by the so-called reality of buildings, cars, sidewalks, pedestrians, the particular light, or if the buildings, pedestrians and so on are made to accommodate the contours of the already present idea of the place ...
2 January 1997
The Dow Low Drop: New and Selected Poems 
by Roy Fisher.
Bloodaxe, 208 pp., £8.95, February 1996, 1 85224 340 6
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... Since the publication of Roy Fisher’s sequence City, in 1961, his work has been praised by fellow poets, but his refusal to strike marketable postures, during a period in which reaching an audience has increasingly depended on a poet’s willingness to do so, has kept him relatively unknown. This neglect is the more understandable given Fisher’s publication history ...
19 February 1981
The Star-Apple Kingdom 
by Derek Walcott.
Cape, 58 pp., £2.50, March 1980, 0 224 01780 2
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Selected Poems 1961-1978 
by David Holbrook.
Anvil, 143 pp., £5.95, November 1980, 0 85646 066 4
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Death Valley and Other Poems in America 
by Alan Ross.
London Magazine Editions, 92 pp., £3, June 1980, 0 904388 32 8
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Poems 1955-1980 
by Roy Fisher.
Oxford, 193 pp., £7.95, November 1980, 0 19 211935 4
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A.R.T.H.U.R. & M.A.R.T.H.A. 
by Laurence Lerner.
Secker, 69 pp., £2.95, November 1980, 0 436 24440 3
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... book. If the reviewers fall idle, everybody drops dead; it’s as simple as that. Thus nudged by Roy Fisher, I hasten to welcome his Poems 1955-1980, which gathers all his published poems and prose poems. Until now, his work has been available (if at all) only from small presses. He has nonetheless acquired a substantial reputation, and the publication ...

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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... as a ‘provincial’ bore, there have been poets around for some time, such as Edwin Morgan and Roy Fisher, who give the lie to that. Home is no longer ‘so sad’. At home few people speak Proper English all the time. Home-based poetry may be in dialect, which is present in nearly all the writers considered here: but it may also fuel itself with a ...

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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... We will not find, on the one hand, poets such as J.H. Prynne and Iain Sinclair, or (apart from Roy Fisher) any of the poets collected in Andrew Crozier and Tim Longville’s 1987 anthology, A Various Art. Nor, at the other end of the spectrum, will we find poets such as Peter Robinson, Robert Wells or Clive Wilmer, or the Carcanet poets from the days ...

Snarly Glitters

August Kleinzahler: Roy Fisher

20 April 2006
The Long and the Short of It: Poems 1955-2005 
by Roy Fisher.
Bloodaxe, 400 pp., £12, June 2005, 1 85224 701 0
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... In a 1979 review of Roy Fisher’s collection of poems The Thing about Joe Sullivan, probably the most likeable collection by a not always likeable poet, John Ash wrote: ‘In a better world, he would be as widely known and highly praised as Ted Hughes and Seamus Heaney.’ This would be a very strange world, and not necessarily a better one ...
5 October 1995
Vale Royal 
by Aidan Dun.
Goldmark, 130 pp., £22.50, July 1995
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... work up much enthusiasm for the post-Olsonian outpourings of the Seventies, most notably Allen Fisher’s Place, Place was set largely south of the river, a nowhere defined by unnecessary particulars. Now Roy Fisher, he could do something with him – but the man had the poor taste to base his mythology on ...
23 July 1992
Goodstone 
by Fred Voss.
Bloodaxe, 180 pp., £7.95, November 1991, 1 85224 198 5
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... a more richly resourced language would necessarily distort the subject. Writing about the work of Roy Fisher in Thomas Hardy and British Poetry, Donald Davie takes Fisher to be ‘restricting himself as self-denyingly as Larkin to the urbanised and industrialised landscapes of modern England’ and identifies a ...

Toss the monkey wrench

August Kleinzahler: Lee Harwood’s risky poems

19 May 2005
Collected Poems 
by Lee Harwood.
Shearsman, 522 pp., £17.95, May 2004, 9780907562405
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... Fulcrum Press, a small poetry publisher, operated out of 20 Fitzroy Square in London between 1965 and 1972. I don’t know of a more important or influential publisher of poetry in recent history, or one which achieved so much in so narrow a window of time. The press was founded by a 26-year-old physician-poet from what was then Rhodesia called Stuart Montgomery, the author of a remarkable long poem entitled Circe, adapted loosely from the Odyssey and clearly influenced by Basil Bunting ...

Enlarging Insularity

Patrick McGuinness: Donald Davie

20 January 2000
With the Grain: Essays on Thomas Hardy and Modern British Poetry 
by Donald Davie.
Carcanet, 346 pp., £14.95, October 1998, 1 85754 394 7
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... which has room not only for Larkin, Betjeman, Auden and Housman but for Bunting, J.H. Prynne and Roy Fisher, and which takes time to confront the impact (‘in languages other than their own’) of Pasternak and Pound. With Davie, such words as ‘provincial’, ‘insular’, ‘tradition’ fight back against the pejorative connotations they have ...

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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... three voices of the 16 in A Various Art to emerge most strongly have enjoyed critical sponsorship: Roy Fisher and J.H. Prynne in Donald Davie’s Thomas Hardy and British Poetry, the late Veronica Forrest-Thomson through her own theoretical book Poetic Artifice. In spurning both a polemical introduction and the biographical notes, this anthology may ...

Davie’s Rap

Neil Corcoran

25 January 1990
Under Briggflatts: A History of Poetry in Great Britain 1960-1988 
by Donald Davie.
Carcanet, 261 pp., £18.95, October 1989, 0 85635 820 7
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Annunciations 
by Charles Tomlinson.
Oxford, 55 pp., £5.95, November 1989, 0 19 282680 8
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Possible Worlds 
by Peter Porter.
Oxford, 68 pp., £6.95, September 1989, 0 19 282660 3
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The boys who stole the funeral: A Novel Sequence 
by Les Murray.
Carcanet, 71 pp., £6.95, October 1989, 0 85635 845 2
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... no significant part in this history, then what are we to make of the omissions of J.H. Prynne and Roy Fisher, heroes of Davie’s earlier study of the contemporary, Thomas Hardy and British Poetry (1973)? In a book whose title claims centrality for Bunting, a writer who signally amalgamated Wordsworthian English Romanticism and ...

Agh, Agh, Yah, Boo

David Wheatley: Ian Hamilton Finlay

4 December 2014
Midway: Letters from Ian Hamilton Finlay to Stephen Bann, 1964-69 
edited by Stephen Bann.
Wilmington Square, 426 pp., £25, May 2014, 978 1 905524 34 1
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... the 1960s was his campaign against Stuart Montgomery. Montgomery’s Fulcrum Press had published Roy Fisher, Lorine Niedecker, Robert Duncan and Lee Harwood, and seemed poised to become the publisher the British Poetry Revival of those years needed to counterbalance the waning radical commitments of the post-Eliot Faber list. Reprinting Finlay’s 1960 ...

At The Thirteenth Hour

William Wootten: David Jones

25 September 2003
Wedding Poems 
by David Jones, edited by Thomas Dilworth.
Enitharmon, 88 pp., £12, April 2002, 1 900564 87 4
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David Jones: Writer and Artist 
by Keith Alldritt.
Constable, 208 pp., £18.99, April 2003, 1 84119 379 8
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... matter. In Parenthesis (1937) is Jones’s account in free verse and poetic prose of life with the Royal Welch Fusiliers between December 1915 and July 1916. It’s a classic of both Modernism and First World War writing, and unlike what one expects of either. There is, to be sure, the horror and camaraderie of trench life; but there’s also the ...
11 April 2013
Collected Poems 
by Edward Dorn.
Carcanet, 995 pp., £25, November 2012, 978 1 84777 126 1
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... the particulars of roads. He speaks of this, reporting on his expedition with the photographer Leroy McLucas through the Basin-Plateau, where Idaho meets Utah and Nevada. ‘I was tagging along making notes, looking. I was really looking at the kind of terrible awesomeness of the miscellanea of American upper landscape.’ That ability, ‘really ...

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