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Named for a Sonny Boy Williamson song, this is a collection of interviews with 20 modern poets. The subjects are Kelvin Corcoran, Simon Smith, Michael Haslam, David Chaloner, Elisabeth Bletsoe, David Greenslade, Alexander Hutchison, Peter Manson, Harry Gilonis, Andrew Crozier, Tim Allen, Out to Lunch, Tony Lopez, Sean Bonney, David Miller, R.F. Langley, John Hall, Nick Johnson, Robert Sheppard, and Eric Mottram. The stress is on reflexive poets whose thoughts on language and artistic procedures shed new light on modern culture and on the interpretation of poems. These revealing interviews fit into a scene of historically unprecedented freedom and diversity of ideas; they shed a steady light on the diversity without bringing it to heel or setting up unified criteria; they let the poets speak, and find themselves not in chaos, but in a working practice where they follow intuitive truth for the content and internally consistent open methods for the presentation.
How naïve – to try to find out about modern poetry by getting the poets to talk about what they do. We have gone to the edge of darkness and been given the key to a linguistic hypersensitivity that comes out of the unknown steadfastly towards us.
There is an anomaly about so much reflexive poetry without a body of poetics to support it. But the British dislike of theory could be overcome by getting the producers to talk about their business as individuals. Till now there never was a book where poets from what used to be called the Underground talked at length about their own poetry. The results are surprising, and do tend to upset the theories vociferously proposed by spokesmen for groups which never showed the slightest inclination to think as a group. Perhaps the process whereby fantasy evolves into myth and myth into history can now move on a stage. Perhaps, too, the foundation tales of the black propaganda about the Underground – that it involves mindless spontaneity, mimetic dependence on American models, and inorganic application of academic “theory of literature” – can now be sent to the recycling mill of history.
The widest possible range of poets has been covered outside the lethally conventional. Special attention has been given to groups of poets sharing creative ideas with each other, and to regional scenes – much information will be found about poetic activity in Plymouth, Manchester and Glasgow. Two generations of poets have their say, running down poetic matters from the Cuban Missile Crisis to the razing of Baghdad, from The English Intelligencer to Cul de Qui.
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