Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Counties of England

Yesterday when I was supposed to be having a nap (don't ask) I read The Railway Accident, Edward Upward's surrealist short story about, well, a railway accident, but also about England as refracted through a certain milieu, one which now seems both very distant and awfully familiar.

It is extremely funny; it you haven't read it, do: it's only 40 or so pages.

And then today I was reading Mick Imlah's collection Birthmarks. Lots to say on this topic, not least how the more I read of certain young turks of the 70s and 80s (e.g. Imlah, Tom Paulin, Michael Hofmann, Craig Raine), the more I become aware of a definite style - cool, ironic, prosaic, funny - which is now something of a spent force, for good or ill. What I like about it is the way in which these poets, like Upward, manage to speak with both humour and incisiveness about a social topic (England, Ireland, a landscape, a city, a cultural and social set) without quite being just satirical. Take, for instance, Imlah's 'The Counties of England', whose sections cannot really be quoted effectively in part, but which manage to sketch their subjects with a cartoon humour reminiscent of Hogarth.


Blogger Ben Wilkinson said...

I've been meaning to get a hold of Mick Imlah's first (and only?) collection for ages, having looked at many of the New Generation poets in my undergrad dissertation. Thanks for reminding me of it; I just found a second hand copy (unsurprisingly, no first ones left) on Amazon for 35p. Can't be bad.

12:25 AM  
Blogger Tony Williams said...

Hi Ben
Yeah, my copy came from Oxfam at the stiffer price of £1.49. I don't know whether it to laugh or cry at getting good poetry by living writers for such a pittance.

It strikes me that, Paulin apart, none of the poets in that little group I mentioned have been exactly prolific. Not sure there are any comclusions to be drawn from that, but there you go.

9:10 AM  

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