Kelvin Corcoran, When Suzy was, 1999, Shearsman.These books petty well sum up the postmodern in Britain. Behind the English postmoderns I have always seen visions of St.John Perse's Anabasis and the relentless probing over the steppes of the nomad bands. Andrew Duncan invoked this brilliantly in many of his earlier poems and fragments remain in Switching and Main Exchange from twenty years ago. But in the intervening period, judging by his new book Pauper Estate and ignoring his selection in a recent Shearsman magazine, he has moved towards the Roy Fisher vision of a corrupt industrial world with little pity for its occupants. All you ever wanted to know about Roy Fisher is available in Interviews Through Time and a companion book from Rupert Loydell's Stride News for the Ear, edited by Robert Sheppard and Peter Robinson. I dont want to read these books. I first met Roy Fisher's poetry over thirty years ago when he was published by Stuart Montgomery's Fulcrum and decided then that he wasn't for me. A negative influence. But very appealling to the postmoderns, His book A Furnace is probably his masterpiece and is a description of Birmingham at its worst. Thank god that many years ago I left the cities.
Barry MacSweeney, Sweet Advocate, 1999, Equipage.
Andrew Duncan, Switching and Main Exchange, 2000, Shearsman.
Andrew Duncan, Pauper Estate, 2000, Shearsman.
Roy Fisher; Tony Frazer (Editor), Interviews Through Time.
But make no mistake about it. Andrew Duncan can write. And he is playing about with WCW tinges which would delight Fred Beake. The unfortunate thing is that in the past twenty years he has displaced his imagination towards the negative. Perhaps he has had a hard time of it. But then haven't we all.
Kelvin Corcoran is a poet I have followed for many years. He has a lyricism and light touch which revive my spirits. The new book is aimed at Greece and is hard to fathom. He doesn't have the depth of an Andrew Duncan but is to be enjoyed as a poet. Long may he flourish.
Barry MacSweeney serves up new female names from his repertoire. His work is always interesting. There is a brain behind it. The new pamphlet is enjoyable without the brilliance of Ranter, which was far his best. I enjoy MacSweeney most when he talks of Sparty Lea, but there is none of that here. What we have is close-plotted poetry dismissing yet another love affair.
But Corcoran and MacSweeney are true poets. They write of love. Duncan and Fisher are of the black-faced postmodern prescription who will have none of it. And what is the emotion of writing of the genius of the great riders from the Asiatic plains if it is not love of destruction.
I think these books epitomise English poetry as we enter the 21st century. For Scotland I am still waiting my copy of Kathleen Jamie's Jizzen. You wont get better poets and what they are doing needs careful scrutiny.