Books: Poetry Notebook — Acknowledgements |
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Poetry Notebook : Acknowledgements

For most of the notes in this Poetry Notebook, Christian Wiman of Poetry (Chicago) must have my thanks for providing a resplendent first home. I should also thank Alan Jenkins of the TLS for agreeing to print the Notebook’s last chapter. Near the end of the book, before that last chapter, I have placed a sheaf of commissioned pieces that I have written in recent years. I am grateful to the editors concerned. The pieces are not strictly in note form, but one of my role models, Randall Jarrell, never minded mixing various types and formats of essay, as long as they fitted his view of poetry; and anyone who reads Jarrell’s Poetry and the Age today might soon decide that nobody’s view was ever more coherent, as if poetic quality were a world in itself.

My thanks to Prue Shaw, to Deirdre Serjeantson and to David Free for reading the manuscript. Prue Shaw, in addition to several other crucial comments, employed scholastic means to prove that an apparently rogue apostrophe in a line by Marvell actually belonged there; and Deidre Serjeantson reminded me that Milton might not necessarily have thought he was doing an unpoetic thing when he unloaded a classical library into the Garden of Eden. Martin Amis also spoke well in praise of Milton. My daughter Claerwen James designed the book’s cover for the British edition. My assistant Susanne Young played a crucial role in assembling the working manuscript: in our cybernetic era there are so many ways of laying out a poem on the page, and almost all of them are wrong. The Wall Street Journal, the Poetry Archive and the Reading for Life organization deserve my thanks for encouraging the idea that I should try to pack as much judgement as possible into a small space, at times when I felt that a short piece might not just be best, but all I could do.

I should also thank the editors of publications in Britain, the USA and Australia that asked me for book reviews and for articles about poetry: the New York Times Book Review, Standpoint, the Monthly, the Spectator, Prospect and the Financial Times. Don Paterson, in his role as poetry editor of Picador, commissioned the chapter on Michael Donaghy and also, in his usual generous fashion, edited the initial manuscript of this book. Watching from New York, Robert Weil of Liveright was inspiringly determined to get a transatlantic edition published, even though, in present-day America, the issue of permissions makes it so expensive in time and trouble for the critic of poetry to quote what he is criticizing. Robert Weil also suggested the possibility that there might be some linking interludes to help students conclude that I was not deliberately being elliptical about a subject sufficiently elliptical already: a suggestion that Don Paterson endorsed. So really I had two editors, and I am grateful to both of them; but the opinions are all mine, although here and there, for the sake of narrative logic, I have modified the chronological order in which I wrote them down.