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This volume assembles work long unavailable in print, which forms part of a literary movement – the so-called ‘Cambridge Poets’ –of great interest to many scholars and writers. Nick Totton was involved as a writer, editor, and organiser of readings and events. His poetry has been variously described as ‘surrealist’, ‘postmodern’, ‘non-representational’ and ‘difficult’; it traverses political, sexual, metaphysical and psychological terrains, collaging multiple styles and vocabularies, and mounting repeated challenges to the first person, both singular and plural. Peter Ackroyd has written that Nick’s work ‘redefines the possibilities of political or “public” poetry at a time when it has fallen into disrepute’; Time Out described A Talisman, included here, as ‘remarkably interesting’. The work’s allegiance is certainly not to the current UK poetic orthodoxy, but more to North and South American and European figures like Spicer, Vallejo, Breton, as well as British poets like J.H. Prynne, John James and Denise Riley. Among the writings collected here are the previous, more or less unobtainable collections Making A Meal Of It and Radio Times, plus poems from the wholly unobtainable Scarcity and Mastering the Art of English Cooking; together with long poems including Seeing It Through, You Can’t Get There From Here, and Green Heart.
‘Nick Totton’s poetry, with its achingly, carefully measured sweeps of syntax, its knowledge of returns and its luminous urgency, was never seduced by optimistic opacity. Determined to come to terms with the truths of feeling, committed to a politics of the inner as of the outer person, it has steadfastly set its sights on the good that may come out of it. It can be funny, discursive, lyrical, angry, accepting, encouraging and knowing. I can’t imagine life without it.’ —Ian Patterson
‘In the glut of babble and turbulent mendacity I read Nick Totton, such unassuming brilliance is scarcity indeed.’ —John James
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