Saturday, June 19, 2010


No, not a town in Sussex, but a way of conflating two things I wanted to "blog" about. On Wednesday I went to the launch of the Anthony Burgess Foundation. Astonishingly, given these straitened times, we now have a physical presence for the memory of Anthony Burgess in the centre of Manchester. With a cafe, performance space - and behind the scenes, archive and study space - the IABF (the "I" is suitably enough for "International") launched with a recital of some of Burgess's music, and the event was packed. I remember around the turn of the century talking to someone from the English faculty at one of our universities and saying "If I ever did a PhD I'd probably choose someone like Burgess..." and been told, "They wouldn't let you, they don't rate him." Thankfully that attitude has changed, and a lot is to do with the foundation being there to promote his memory, and, as importantly, the interest in him from abroad. A linguist, a polymath, Burgess may have had Manchester roots, but he was truly a global citizen as at home in Italy or New York as in England. Seeing shelves full of his many, many books, you get a genuine sense of a writer with an "oeuvre." That we use the French word for "a body of work" says it all really.  The new space will be having a range of events on over the next few months, and I'm sure I'll be mentioning them when they happen.

The absurd farrago when Ruth Padel jockeyed for position to become "Oxford Professor of Poetry" last year, was put into absolute perspective yesterday when Geoffrey Hill was voted into the post. Wikipedia says "In 1950 he was admitted to Keble College, Oxford to read English, where he published his first poems in 1952"... and pretty much ever since he's been a powerful presence in English poetry, again, renowned outside of his country. One wonders how on earth it took so long? The Guardian got out of it's Russell Brand worshipping hubris to actually have a lead article in G2 on "what is poetry for?"  A reprint of Ezra Pound's ABC of Reading might have done a better job, but there were interesting comments from George Szirtes and Don Paterson, even if the overall tone of the article reduced to that "page v. performance, commercial v obscure" set of cliches that bedevills English poetry.

But looking for the links to the article, I also saw the sad news that the great Portugeuse poet, and Nobel Laureate, Jose Saramago, has passed away. A sad day for European letters.

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