Poets of A Various Art:
J. H. Prynne,
It is tempting to find a tendency among the poets who appear in A Various Art, an anthology of some of the best to have made a kind of name for themselves in British small presses and small magazines since the 1960s. 1 The editors, Andrew Crozier and Tim Longville, chose their title precisely by way of disclaiming an overarching tendency.Yet they themselves are understandably willing to hazard a few generalizations; and all of the most important of these include the word "American." Throughout the sixties, much interest had been focused on American music, painting, and writing, on American art in general. 2 In the particular case of poetry there was a shift away from the tradition of "Pound and Eliot" toward that of "Pound and Williams"—a coded reference to Olson and the Black Mountain poets. 3 And, finally, there was the example of American poets taking their fates into their own hands by starting their own publishing houses and journals. 4 It does not require the most rigorous reading of this anthology to confirm the impression that, formally, most of these poets are to a greater or lesser degree influenced by the American metaphor of "open form."
Yet the editors are right to emphasize variety. Granted, many of these poets write "open-ended" stanzas and poems or other "open" forms where lines or stanzas move around the page in expressive ways.But only intermittently does this volume accord with Olson's Romantic objectivism, or