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Open in a Scream

Colm Tóibín, 4 March 2021

Francis Bacon: Revelations 
by Mark Stevens and Annalyn Swan.
William Collins, 869 pp., £30, January, 978 0 00 729841 9
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... to paint.’In their new biography, which is nearly as long as the other three put together, Mark Stevens and Annalyn Swan devote nine pages to the time Bacon spent outside London. Like previous biographers, they are hampered by lack of evidence, so they have to improvise. ‘Silence can be a great surprise,’ they write. ‘Day after day of ...

Asking to Be Looked at

Wayne Koestenbaum, 25 January 1996

Mapplethorpe: A Biography 
by Patricia Morrisroe.
Macmillan, 461 pp., £20, September 1995, 9780333669419
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Playing with the Edge: The Photographic Achievement of Robert Mapplethorpe 
by Arthur Danto.
California, 206 pp., £20, October 1995, 0 520 20051 9
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... a soldier, I would have noticed it if anyone was equipped like the Man in the Polyester Suit, or Mark Stevens for that matter. Robert Burns in one of his nastier verses wrote, ‘Nine inches doth please a lady’ – but something of that dimension would have been negligible in the baths and washrooms of the Seventies if Mapplethorpe’s models are ...

Inky Pilgrimage

Mark Ford, 24 May 2007

The Contemplated Spouse: The Letters of Wallace Stevens to Elsie 
edited by Donald Blount.
South Carolina, 430 pp., £30.95, January 2006, 1 57003 248 3
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... who had just dedicated to him his longest poem, ‘Notes toward a Supreme Fiction’, ‘that Mrs Stevens has had an important part to play in the poetry of Wallace Stevens.’ This was in 1943, by which time Mr and Mrs Stevens had been living together in marital discord for more than a ...

Diary

Mark Ford: Love and Theft, 2 December 2004

... August). The idea for the poem came from a comment in an excellent book by Tony Sharpe on Wallace Stevens, in which he speculates on the flocks of pigeons mentioned in the last lines of ‘Sunday Morning’: And, in the isolation of the sky, At evening, casual flocks of pigeons make Ambiguous undulations as they sink, Downward to darkness, on extended ...

On Nicholas Moore

Peter Howarth: Nicholas Moore, 24 September 2015

... for Dylan Thomas and the New Apocalypse poets, but his real coup had been to get several Wallace Stevens poems published in Britain, much to Stevens’s pleasure. Meanwhile, his own poems kept coming, and by 1944 a Selected, The Glass Tower, came out, expensively illustrated by Lucian Freud. He got married to a woman ...

Bloom’s Giant Forms

Mark Edmundson, 1 June 1989

Ruin the sacred truths: Poetry and Belief from the Bible to the Present 
by Harold Bloom.
Harvard, 204 pp., £15.95, February 1989, 0 674 78027 2
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Harold Bloom: Towards Historical Rhetorics 
by Peter de Bolla.
Routledge, 155 pp., £25, October 1988, 0 415 00899 9
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... fiction are named Urizen, Los, Enitharmon; in Bloom’s they include Wordsworth, Shelley, Emerson, Stevens and Blake. Bloom’s giant forms contend with each other chiefly over the issue of priority. Each aspires to be self-begotten by his own quickening power, to adapt words of Milton’s Satan that Bloom finds congenial. But this inevitably cannot be. Even ...

Erasures

Mark Ford: Donald Justice, 16 November 2006

Collected Poems 
by Donald Justice.
Anvil, 289 pp., £15, June 2006, 0 85646 386 8
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... by Weldon Kees’, ‘Variations on a Theme from James’, ‘After a Phrase Abandoned by Wallace Stevens’, ‘Variations on a Text by Vallejo’, ‘A Variation on Baudelaire’s “La Servante au grand coeur”’. ‘American Scenes (1904-1905)’ is quarried almost entirely from Henry James’s account of his return to his homeland and the notebook ...

Above it all

Stephen Sedley, 7 April 1994

Suing Judges: A Study of Judicial Immunity 
by Abimbola Olowofoyeku.
Oxford, 234 pp., £27.50, December 1993, 0 19 825793 7
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The Independence of the Judiciary: The View from the Lord Chancellor’s Office 
by Robert Stevens.
Oxford, 221 pp., £25, November 1993, 0 19 825815 1
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... fact that all a working man would ever do with a large award of damages was buy a pub. Robert Stevens in a footnote cites a nice antidote from a law lord in 1833: ‘Here is a contract made by a fishmonger and a carrier of fish who know their business, and whether it is just and reasonable is to be settled by me who am neither fishmonger nor carrier, nor ...

Moving Pictures

Claude Rawson, 16 July 1981

English Subtitles 
by Peter Porter.
Oxford, 56 pp., £3.50, March 1981, 0 19 211942 7
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Unplayed Music 
by Carol Rumens.
Secker, 53 pp., £4.50, February 1981, 9780436439001
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Close Relatives 
by Vicki Feaver.
Secker, 64 pp., £4.50, February 1981, 0 436 15185 5
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... used in the title-poem, ‘annotations’. And this image from the scholar’s art is not, as in Stevens’s ‘Notes Toward a Supreme Fiction’, a coy underselling of what is really an ambitious and extended philosophical meditation, enclosed in a poetic structure patterned with almost numerological care, but genuinely a matter of hints at a ...

Vendlerising

John Kerrigan, 2 April 1987

The Faber Book of Contemporary American Poetry 
edited by Helen Vendler.
Faber, 440 pp., £9.95, November 1986, 0 571 13945 0
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Selected Poems 
by John Ashbery.
Carcanet, 348 pp., £16.95, April 1986, 0 85635 666 2
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The Poetry Book Society Anthology 1986/87 
edited by Jonathan Barker.
Hutchinson, 94 pp., £4.95, November 1986, 0 09 165961 2
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Two Horse Wagon Going By 
by Christopher Middleton.
Carcanet, 143 pp., £5.95, October 1986, 0 85635 661 1
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... as long ago as 1915 but because it puts a tap-root deep into Romanticism. Including a dozen Stevens texts pre-dating the Pisan Cantos and Paterson, while excluding Pound and Williams, the book seems more atavistic than Contemporary, and slanted into bias. Nothing in the objectivist or projective line is included. Olson is rejected, along with Dorn. A ...

Saint Q

Alan Brien, 12 September 1991

Well, I forget the rest 
by Quentin Crewe.
Hutchinson, 278 pp., £17.99, September 1991, 0 09 174835 6
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... Our relatives were more likely to be an embarrassment, not a recommendation. The query with which Mark Boxer, usually lying on the floor, was later to unnerve insecure talents seeking work from the Sunday Times – ‘Tell me who you know’ – was meaningless to us in the Fifties. We had to manage with a landlady and barman as references. No wonder those of ...

Stand-Up Vampire

Gillian White: Louise Glück, 26 September 2013

Poems 1962-2012 
by Louise Glück.
Farrar, Straus, 634 pp., £30, November 2012, 978 0 374 12608 7
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... The difference between ‘selected’ and ‘collected’ poems, Wallace Stevens wrote in a letter in 1954, is that ‘people read selected poems but don’t buy them’ and ‘buy collected poems but don’t read them’. The symbolism of a collected volume worried him: ‘A book that contains everything that one has done in a lifetime does not reassure one ...

Bobbing Along

Ronald Stevens: The Press Complaints Commission, 7 February 2002

A Press Free and Responsible: Self-Regulation and the Press Complaints Commission 1991-2001 
by Richard Shannon.
Murray, 392 pp., £25, September 2001, 0 7195 6321 6
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... Was this an objective judgment or was Mr Black just possibly influenced by the fact that he and Mark Bolland (his predecessor as director of the PCC, now a member of the Prince of Wales’s staff and Mr Black’s boyfriend) went on holiday last year with Rebekah Wade, the NoW’s editor? Can Mr Black really be regarded as an independent observer of the ...

Belfryful of Bells

Theo Tait: John Banville, 19 November 2015

The Blue Guitar 
by John Banville.
Viking, 250 pp., £14.99, September 2015, 978 0 241 00432 6
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... novelistic. In time-honoured fashion, Banville takes it from a canonical poem, nodding to Wallace Stevens (‘Things as they are/Are changed upon the blue guitar’). He dutifully sprinkles his text with other tags from Stevens: ‘things as they are’; ‘the thing itself’; ‘pale Ramon’. But though neat in some ...
The ego is always at the wheel 
by Delmore Schwartz.
Carcanet, 146 pp., £6.95, May 1987, 0 85635 702 2
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A Nest of Ninnies 
by John Ashbery and James Schuyler.
Carcanet, 191 pp., £10.95, June 1987, 0 85635 699 9
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... that case where the hell was I? but what instead did I want it to sound like? Schwartz made his mark just before the Second World War when Modernism was at its most popular, and it was in this tradition that Allen Tate saw his first book, In dreams begin responsibilities, when it came out in 1938, hailing it as ‘beyond any doubt the first real innovation ...

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