English Poetry in Safe Hands; the Story of Poetry Volume 1 - English Poets and Poetry from Caedmon to Chaucer. by Michael Schmidt (Weidenfeld & Nicolson, Pounds 25). Reviewed by Keith Brace
Byline: Keith Brace
Michael Schmidt is a one-man guardian angel of contemporary poetry publishing in Britain, not forgetting the noble work of Faber and Faber.
Schmidt and Faber, with numerous 'small' presses, keep the verse (good and not so good) flowing at a time when the art form which the British are arguably best at in the world has never been so popular - and has never been so neglected by the large commercial publishers.
A number of these used to maintain distinguished poetry lists out of respect to our poetic traditions, though they made little if any money out of them. Most of them have dropped their new poetry, including Oxford University Press.
Michael Schmidt, with his enterprising Carcanet Press in Manchester, has filled the gap indefatigably, and has gallantly taken over a number of fine poets abandoned by the biggies.
He also edits the leading poetry magazine, PN Review, is founder and editorial director of Carcanet, and teaches poetry at Manchester Metropolitan University. He writes excellent poetry himself.
This is the first volume of a four-volume work which will trace British poets and poetry up to the present. Oddly, Schmidt confuses with his definition 'English' as there are several great Scots poets here, such as Dunbar and Henryson. …