Troubador (1985)

1. Ric Caddel:

Congratulations to you and the Benjamin Press on the excellent work in `Troubador'.

2. Peter Levi:

I liked some of the early poems (Baudelaire and the Love Sonnets), but also the elegy of Gallus and, of course, Troubador.

3. Edwin Morgan:

I like the `Gallus Elegy' and (in a different way) the permutations of `Camelot'; not so sure about the `Love Sonnets' although they made an impression.

4. Michael O'Higgins:

I liked the `Gallus' sequence best, particularly the Elegy. The later work is best.

5. Kathleen Raine:

I particularly like the Love Sonnets, they are very real and the language --- `regional' don't they call it nowadays --- is dignified and eloquent, and without bravado and poetry-political overtones. I like Camelot too, and your dog poem. The literary ones less successful, what Hopkins calls `parnassian'.

6. George Steiner:

How aptly that `landscape of unwanted sounds' summarises our current condition.

Horsemen (1988)

1. Ric Caddel:

You join the ranks of the Durham Cat Poets, including Kit Smart: it's a good tradition.

2. John Fuller:

Thank you so much for sending me your new book. In fact I like some of the others rather better than the cat poems, particularly `Cernunnos' and `Always the Outsider' and other poems of defiance and survival. Your treatment of the emotional experiences in the poems seems valiantly direct, and the use of myth (such a tricky resort) quite unusually strong and suggestive.

I confess that the Mongols stirred me less --- I always get fidgetty at distilled cultural or political history in verse. I sometimes think I'm the only person who can't read Basil Bunting.

3. Edwin Morgan:

I enjoyed your cats, and also the Mong.

4. Kathleen Raine:

Many thanks for the cat-poems which I shall and do enjoy. All writers are cat-people, and cats like all writers (because of the non-conducting piles of paper on which to sit?). May Seket continue to favour your work.

5. John Whitworth:

I did indeed enjoy the poems about Fritz the Cat, but also the others, in particular `Folk Memory', `Always the Outsider', and the Ezra Poundish/David Jonesish thing about the Mongols.

Coatham (1989)

1. Robert Crawford:

I like the way some of the poems end --- e.g.

the technology rushes onward
to make my experience redundant

These sharp, honest, human bits seem best to me. You're certainly right to publish the book.

2. Edwin Morgan:

I like the directness of the detail --- best way to deal with `a life'!

3. Michael O'Higgins:

I liked `from the village' best.

4. Kathleen Raine:

Thank you for sending me the third of your books of poems in which you have borne witness to your life with a human dignity and integrity rare in our time. I liked especially the Barbarians section --- the first poem, Junker Nietzsche decreed it... and yes, love is and was and ever will be the only defence. Of the whole collection, the one that says all for me is the last of the series, Poetry is the only religion for me and the very beautiful conclusion `and we barbarians who always believe that the next ship will find the crock of love at the end of the rainbow'. May it be so!

5. John Whitworth:

Thank you for `Coatham' which I liked better than `Horsemen', probably because `it is more self-indulgent', though that is not exactly the phrase I'd use. `home movies' is the section I like best, but I'll buy all the poems without the mythological underpinning. Perhaps the `self-indulgence' made you open up a bit and the poetry thus became more accessible. We've got to expose our feelings a bit (even if we tell lots of lies, which really doesn't matter as readers have a right to artistic truth but not to veracity). I liked best `Fourteen', `Sketches', `Seventeen' and `a beginning', but then I would, wouldn't I?

Disbanded (1991)

1. Peter Levi:

I am really thrilled by this book. It is just what needed writing. I lived in Bath for a winter two years ago, in the process of moving here. I have become elderly and can't do much, but will promote this excellent book at every chance I get.

2. Robert Wells:

It's good to find Theocritus treated as a presence (perhaps that is the right word, rather than voice) in his own right, with a life and experience imaginable behind the poems. I was surprised by some of the things you make Theocritus say, but then found myself thinking, Well, yes, maybe. Certainly you find him, as I do, a paradoxical juxtaposition of extreme literariness with a sense of something absolutely its opposite --- wordless, silent --- out of which the herdsman's song breaks in its first freshness. `The best of me was on the islands.'

Dysholm (1993)

1. Peter Levi:

A splendid end to a fine song. I really enjoyed all poems referring to Coatham Mundeville and I hope the lilac is well. Don't think Adelard really knew much Arabic. Even his alliterative Latin is very strange (Irish?).

We have a great deal in common, from Claverton Down to Catraeth and Rokeby. Sweet Dy(e)sholm looks enchanting.

2. Linda Saunders:

I was moved by your latest collection of poems --- not just by the death of Fritz Cat, although I found that event quite hard to bear after so long. Certainly he was a famous cat, and died a hero's death on a full stomach, which is good. I have grown to appreciate your quirky rhythms, the sound of your inner voice.

3. David Constantine:

I like that flat utterance (in Citadel especially).

4. Kathleen Raine:

I'm truly sorry that Fritz Cat is gone. I turned at once to the poems in which you raise him into the relative immortality of poetry! You must find another kitten, to fill that cat-shaped absence! And go on writing poems!

5. William Oxley:

I ask myself: where has he come from? Why have I not known of him ever so much earlier and before, BEFORE? I mean, the voice is so distinct and the intellect there. Oh, yes, voices can be distinct...t'is no rarety. But what's rare is to sense that what's being said is valuable, worth hearing.

I think what I like best is the crafted utterance, the clipped way you state-and-withhold fact/information, which sets up such (again forgive my absurd phrase-making) historico-poetic resonances. Like with Milton and Whitman --- but in a more personalised way --- your name-cataloguing is most effective, for example `Lines for Martin Heidegger' or `Coatham Mundeville'. But...yes, I really did enjoy the whole booklet sans reservation, and loved the wise love poems...all that you and Felix Cat `poured your heart(s) into'.

6. David Latané:

I've been meaning to e-mail you for some time to say that now that I've had time to digest your books (reading mostly on nice fall days on my upstairs porch) that I really did enjoy them. For me there was a cumulative effect to the reading, and your style doesn't hit false notes.

Selected Poems

1. Harry Chambers:

A great deal of idiosyncratic charm and originality.

2. William Oxley:

Y'r SELECTED POEMS came yesterday and I read the volume all through; and it's a delight. This is what I first thought: `I was convinced the first time I trawled through Douglas's poetry that there was something there. Now I know what it is: a passionate story `from the heart.' Let's just take the last line of the first `Verse': `A dream born by right'. That's the sort of quality of expression I look for; and find in your poetry. `For I will go where the starships go/ And follow the bleating wail of a child.' When one writes `from the heart' one gets the music. Now `Moonglow', there is a perfect love poem --- wonderful --- such a rare thing in our time. I like the way --- for example in `Cernunnos' --- you mythologically empathise (if you will forgive the phrase) --- and so mix in the autobiographical `I' as to give the facts of pre-history a sort of new, if highly personal, life. The more I read `The Mong', the more I admire --- even unto the point of envy --- its success and the great skill which has gone into it. That poem is history brilliantly re-told. Other poems which especially appealed were: `Arthur', `The Moor's Sigh', `Friendship', `Fourteen', `Susan's Garden', `Magic', `Love', `Lifetimes' (tho' I find a contradiction between `What is best is what is old', and, the line `It is necessary to be absolutely modern' (in `Goliard'). I wonder if you are not --- and I use the word advisedly and not unkindly --- thoughtlessly echoing something of MacDiarmid's in the latter? `It is necessary to be absolutely modern' could well have come from his sloganising `The Kind of Poetry I Want'? `Winter' and `Young Brock' and `Poets' appealed greatly too. I found the selection got stronger as the book went on; and, for once, I can truly say I could have done with more poems. Which is not something one can say often about a book. I don't know whether you have yet received y'r advance copy of COMPLETING THE PICTURE (pub. mid-August), but having received and read this Selected of yours has confirmed me more than ever in the belief that you were a most deserved inclusion...even if you had never written `And how I am the unknown outsider'. But, anyway, thank you for the acknowledgment at the beginning of the book. I hope it does well and that it gets well reviewed. Were I still the review's editor of ACUMEN, I would certainly review it. If you know anyone who would like me to review it, I will most certainly do so.

3. Peter Levi:

I really congratulate you for these brilliant poems and the swim from Skiathos. And I recall with pleasure `the cobweb silk of nightfall' and `my poetry is redundant'. I feel strongly with you and I believe your poetry will live. It is a very queer feeling to survive redundancy but it's basic to what every poet truly is now. I suppose we shall become cunning like the people who put the messages in Brighton rock.

4. Kathleen Raine:

Thank you for sending me your Selected Poems. I started reading the book without much attention --- thought the first poem --- `Verse' --- very derivative of Yeats --- but as I entered your world of imagination I became more and more absorbed and now emerging at the end I can only remind you of Blake's words about his more or less unread and unnoted poems, that they were read in Heaven, `the delight and study of archangels'. By this I would understand that the work of a poet is the bringing of certain imaginative ideas into consciousness, into the invisible world of anima mundi, or the collective mind, or what you will, and there they operate in power which may not be reflected in the mind of `the reading public' whoever they may be. It is on the same supposition that the Religious Orders work invisibly through prayer, thus building a ladder between the worlds. This world of quantity takes no account of immeasurables --- and after all everything of importance is immeasurable, love, wisdom, joy, sorrow, not to say the worlds of the senses of sight, hearing and the rest. Let us hope this phase of dense and stupid materialism is effectively over, belongs already to the past. It is such work as yours, affirming the world of the Imagination that in fact helps to bring about a different consciousness. I enjoyed and admired poem after poem, Camelot, Troubador, Cernunnos, The Mong (I appreciated the more having just finished reading Gibbon), Always an Outsider, Susan's Garden, Leaving Aycliffe, Winter, and a great deal else. I particularly admire your realization that it is we who create Arthur and Robin Hood and Alexander, and the `England of the Imagination' by ourselves becoming these things. Always the Outsider says all that perfectly. But you really do `become' Zinghis Khan the Barbarian, and wear all the human possibilities of history as your poet's gear. I feel enriched by the experience of these fine poems. Fritz the Cat is always present, which of course delights me, as my life is shared by a fierce little she-tabby Daisybell. She is young and joyous. I am her world and I only hope that she will outlive me and find another human to entwine herself around. I should include Magic among the poems that strike fire although it is not throughout up to the last fifteen lines. These lines are surely the poem, and should you not cut the first two stanzas? I never forget Ezra Pound's advice to me, that a poet should `take away all the words not performing any useful purpose'. The best advice I ever received. He followed it up by describing a visit of Richard Aldington with a longish poem, on which they worked together, `And at the end, there were two and a half lines left'. Of course long poems cant be treated in quite the same way, they need breath, and you are exceptionally good at these longer imaginative excursions. I hope your cat-poems will follow. I hope Fritz Cat has reincarnated in some happy successor --- I imagine he is no longer in our world? If he is so much the better.

5. Ric Caddell:

Thanks for your latest. I like the specifics in it. Fuller's London Pride and silver-grey Ford Cortina --- and the real world you live in and don't dramatise. But I'm a sucker for that old Aneirin stuff too ---

6. Jon Corelis:

I thought that the selection of poems was very appropriate not only in terms of choosing the best ones but also in the way in which the pieces selected cross-illuminate each other --- in their present context it seemed that I was reading many of them for the first time.

7. Edwin Morgan:

Good to be reminded of your quirky self in its pages and on Tennyson Down!

8. Rudolf Klein:

Just a note to thank you very much for `Selected Poems'. I found some of them very moving and all of them illuminating. They do give a very strong sense both of the continuities and the changes in your development over the years. And how I envy your ability to call on such a variety of characters and draw on such a range of different literatures.

9. Iain Crichton Smith:

The poems I liked best started at `Always the outsider' [and on] to the end. They seemed more purposeful and clearer. I especially liked the short one about your mother.

10. Michael O'Higgins:

I particularly liked `Stonehenge'.

11. David Constantine:

There's an impressive range of passions, interests, subjects and forms here. The best poems, in my view, are those such as `Cracked' and `Leaving Aycliffe' --- in those a real feeling comes across in a plain and poignant way.

12. John Fuller:

Thank you so much for your `Selected Poems'. To receive them from the hand of the poet is to feel their pain more sharply, but they are triumphantly inventive and calm in spirit, a case, I'm sure, of art being able to illuminate the reader. Can you take comfort in the enjoyment of even one reader? I do hope so. I've enjoyed them.

13. Allan Burns:

I enjoyed revisiting your world, its special taste of loneliness.

14. John Brander:

It is a wonderful book. The four people I have shown your book to all agree. I usually have to spend some time with a new poet's work before I can comment with anything but a superficial remark. What I can say, at first impression, is that the time and effort, as well as the expense you were put to, you spent on the book is well worth the investment.

15. Robert Palmer:

I have never liked a line that you have written.

16. Peter Riley:

It's been a pleasure to read your Selection of Poems --- many of them are fresh and uninhibited by current pressures of the public poetry scene (which I increasingly think is a very unpleasant place). It's strange how different poems in the book seem as if by different people, almost.

Douglas Clark/ Personal Communications/ Benjamin Press, 69 Hillcrest Drive, Bath BA2 1HD, UK/