Don’t Forget the Poets

British Modernism has not been served well by American critics and readers. Preoccupied by American poetry’s own version of family court—who are the true heirs of William Carlos Williams, Charles Olson, or even Robert Lowell? when will the prodigal Stein finally come back from Europe and take her place at the head of the table?—we have been content merely to nod approvingly at the likes of Basil Bunting and David Jones. But as the recent publication of J.H. Prynne’s Poems, Tom Raworth’s Collected Poems, and the many collected and selected volumes streaming out of Salt Publishing remind us, the story of British Modernism in America is still a work in progress.

Add to that story W.S. Graham’s New Collected Poems, which not only returns Graham to the central narrative of 20th-century British poetry but should also mark his introduction to the United States as a major lyric poet.

From an interesting review by Brian Kim Stefans at Boston Review. Here’s a poem by Graham:

                 Listen. Put on morning.
                 Waken into falling light.
                 A man’s imagining
                 Suddenly may inherit
                 The handclapping centuries
                 Of his one minute on earth.
                 And hear the virgin juries
                 Talk with his own breath
                 To the corner boys of his street.
                 And hear the Black Maria
                 Searching the town at night.
                 And hear the playropes caa
                 The sister Mary in.
                 And hear Willie and Davie
                 Among bracken of Narnain
                 Sing in a mist heavy
                 With myrtle and listeners.
                 And hear the higher town
                 Weep a petition of fears
                 At the poorhouse close upon
                 The public heartbeat.
                 And hear the children tig
                 And run with my own feet
                 Into the netting drag
                 Of a suiciding principle
                 Listen. Put on lightbreak.
                 Waken into miracle. . . .