Saturday, February 11, 2006

English Neglectorino's

Over in America, there's now a website dedicated to neglected poets run by the poet CA Conrad ( and it occured to me to wonder who the English poets would be who are most deserving of reviving. I have a few candidates myself, in particular George MacBeth, Nicholas Moore, Veronica Forrest Thomson, Geoffery Holloway and many of the poets of the '40's such as Lynette Roberts, Paul Dehn, and others.

Some of these poets seem to have disappeared recently: George MacBeth died of motor neurone disease, then seems to have been forgotten until Enitharmon's Selected Poems. This was edited by Anthony Thwaite, and while useful, only showcases his more sensible formalist side; there's nothing of the hit-and-miss playfulness and games-playing side of him as seen in his Unwin Collected Poems, and nothing of his longer poems or experimental autobiography such as My Scotland.

Lynette Roberts has recently been published in a handsome edition by Carcanet, of course, and the forties poets might just be about to re-enter the canon a little. Their voice - anxious, committed and often more interesting than the Movement poets that pushed them out of the way - has been missing from contemporary poetry for too long.

Geoffery Holloway seemed to be stalwart of the small-press scene, and apart from two early Anvil volumes, never made it beyond that. But there was always something about his poetry that wasn't well-behaved, and he was always readable and often funny and wise at the same time.

Sometimes these neglected poets died, or became ill, or stopped writing too early to establish a reputation. Such was the fate of Nicholas Moore - though he later took up writing again, but by then the poetry world had moved on, and he never found a major publisher again. Lynette Roberts stopped writing when she got religion, then became ill as well. Rosemary Tonks is another poet who is neglected - two books, a couple of novels then she got born again. Why does being born again stop you from writing?

There are plenty of others I could name. Stanley Cook, Frank Redpath among the School of Quietude, early Denise Levertov perhaps, and of course Mina Loy. Derryn Rees Jones I think has recently been seeking to reassess Edith Sitwell. The surrealists, in particular Philip O'Connor. I'd be interested in any names of British poets (they have to be dead, by the way, and twentieth century) that my readers think are unjustly neglected.

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