Publication Date
Publication Status
Out of print
Poetry by individual poets
Trim Size
216 x 140mm

Anxiety Before Entering a Room


It’s the tail end of the Seventies, the severity of hypothetical Marxism has given way to the anti-humanism of punk. In a province, someone anglophobe and technophile is attempting to write documentary poetry about the situation at work, where the basic power relations never slip out of mind: an unending cascade of concrete and puzzling problems, of human conjunctures. The real ordinance of society follows an ideology which is secret, covered by a false public one; other forms of consciousness are a shifting set of part-patterns. All around, a generation of English poets are connecting their output to their input. A cultural blockade comes down over all poetry except the most subservient. Filtered expanses of monochrome nuance concealed the fact that nothing was being said. The industrial recession of the Thatcher years lays bare the fragility of every social and psychological structure. Somewhere in the underground of North London, the invisibility allows a constant approximation to popular culture. The infinite compression of punk breaks up into a boundless release, the rediscovery of melody and colour. Melancholic and esoteric virtuosity in deserted spaces is interrupted by a troupe of bedizened dropouts, impossibly nimble and competitive, and is redirected towards bright patched surfaces. The attack by the State and the South on a whole engineering civilisation is protested by the construction of complex symbolic machines. A lucid equivalent of turmoil is not the same as unstable maps of instability.

Reviews of this Book

‘[T]he poems range over the planet, through history, across cultures, always with a sense of rootedness in a historical / cultural consciousness.’ —Keith Jebb, Poetry Review

‘Duncan has long been known as the editor of the exceptional magazine Angel Exhaust and a feisty controversialist, yet despite seven volumes, his poetry seems to be less known than he is. This book should redress the balance.’ —Keith Jebb, Poetry Review