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This revised first volume of Selected Writings by Richard Berengarten consists of longer poems written between 1965 and 2000, in Greece, Italy, England and Yugoslavia. While some poems, like ‘Avebury’ and ‘Croft Woods’, have their focal points in a recognisably English landscape and consciousness, there is no insular limitation on the matter. Berengarten has written: “I would rather think of myself as a European poet who writes in English than as an ‘English’ poet.”
The range and breadth of this ambitious collection confirm Berengarten’ place in the European late modernist mainstream. The predominant concerns are love, vision and justice. Oppression is confronted and defeated. Eros is celebrated. The voice of the Other is ever-present. Personal relations and integrities are affirmed. The keynote is magnanimity.
The selection opens with ‘The Easter Rising 1967’, a poem against dictatorship, written during the military takeover in Greece. Involvement with Greece resurfaces in ‘Black Light’, a sequence dedicated to the memory of George Seferis. Also featured are poems set in former Yugoslavia, including ‘The Voice in the Garden’ dedicated to Berengarten’s friend Ivan V. Lalić. Other poems are rooted in family and filial relations ( ‘May’), in Cabbalistic Judaism (‘The Rose of Sharon’, ‘Tree’), in Breton and Welsh tradition (‘Ys’), in art (‘Transformations’, ‘Against the Day’), and in post-Holocaust consciousness and ecology (‘Angels’).
For the Living includes the award-winning poems ‘The Rose of Sharon’ (Keats Memorial Prize) and ‘In Memory of George Seferis I’ (Duncan Lawrie Prize), as well as a range of previously unpublished pieces. Notes provide dedications, dates and places of composition.
For the Living is the first volume in his Selected Writings ‘The Rose of Sharon’ won the Keats Memorial Poetry Prize and ‘In memory of George Seferis (1)’ received the Duncan Lawrie Prize.
Richard Berengarten used to be known as Richard Burns. With the publication of this book, he now repossesses the family name of his father, the cellist and saxophonist Alexander Berengarten.
‘These poems are humane, passionate and wonderfully varied; at once visionary and restless, Berengarten is one of those fearless poets whose utter trust in honesty and clarity is, at times, breathtaking, at times heartbreaking.’ —John Burnside
‘I'm not a prophet, but I believe you have written a great poem.’ —OCTAVIO PAZ on ‘Avebury’
‘A miracle of pattern and variation, sustained on so high a pitch that it is impossible to consider one poem better than another. A blazing black unity.’ —KIMON FRIAR on ‘Black Light’
‘An affirmation and celebration of a miraculous living being.’ —STEFANO MARIA CASELLA on ‘Tree’
‘Croft Woods displays Berengarten at the height of his transcendent powers.’ —SIMON JENNER
‘Poised between Blake and Mandelstam, Berengarten has the best chance to strike greatness.’ —THE JERUSALEM POST on ‘Angels’