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It’s About Time: An Andrew Crozier Reader

By Harriet Staff

“This comprehensive gathering together of the poetry and prose of one of the key figures of non-mainstream British poetry is long-overdue,” writes Matt Merritt for Magma Poetry about An Andrew Crozier Reader, a 276-page collection published by Carcanet this March and edited by Ian Brinton.

Andrew Crozier (1943-2008) was a major presence for the British Poetry Revival, yet at the time of his death, his poetry was out of print. (Sidenote: To familiarize yourself even more with contemporary British poetry of the avant sort, we’d recommend this article on Jacket2, as well as the British Poetry Issue of the Chicago Review (53:1), which even comes with a special poster entitled “Styles of British Poetry 1945–2000″).

Crozier was known for championing U.S. poets in England, and he helped to circulate the works of Douglas Oliver and Robin Blaser, among countless other writers and visual artists. “A champion of work excluded from the familiar canon, he brought to the English literary landscape of the 1960s and 70s an engagement with the energies of American poetry,” writes Carcanet. A thorough and fond biography can be read in his obituary from The Independent.

As for the Reader, Merritt notes that its existence places the poet’s work “firmly within the poetic timeline of the last 50 years,” as well as in a geographical context:

Early engagement with American modernism, and especially Objectivism, is both energising and fruitful, and sees Crozier getting to grips with two of his recurring themes – the infinite possibilities of language, and the awareness that language creates reality as often as it reflects it.

So, in a piece called ‘How Does It Go?’, from around 1965, you find him asking:

Song’s failure
in its rhyme
to say what’s meant
that lovely ice that girl
how to have both
in the poem?

[Check original post for correct poem formatting.] That sort of aside is typical of Crozier’s style, and touches on his scepticism about the musicality of language – the result is a style that frequently replicates the thought processes of everyday living. In lesser hands that might be a recipe for flat or even banal writing, but Crozier was always capable of opening out new layers of meaning and perception from even the most seemingly mundane subject matter.

While Merritt finds “Crozier less engaging when he seemed more directly influenced by English contemporaries,” his critical prose is “never less than engrossing”:

…[I]t’s at its most enjoyable not when Crozier is attacking the mainstream canon (although he does give much credit where he feels it due), but when he’s making a passionate case for ‘lost’ poets such as the American Carl Rakosi (Crozier effectively rediscovered him and inspired him to begin writing again) and the Scottish 1940s writer J F Hendry, or when he’s taking issue with Donald Davie’s evaluation of Roy Fisher. Crozier may well have felt a close kinship to the work of all three, and certainly there are interesting parallels between Fisher’s ‘A Furnace’ and Crozier’s own poetry when read in light of his essay.

Australian poet Laurie Duggan gives us a bigger scope, emphasizing the book’s cruciality in his post about the April book launch:

Crozier, who died in 2008, had published numerous small press books (he ran one press, Ferry, himself) but the work had only been collected in All Where Each Is (Allardyce Barnett) in 1985. Further work had appeared in the ill-fated Picador anthology Conductors of Chaos edited by Iain Sinclair ten years later. Crozier had not written very much in the succeeding period and had been reluctant to collect work for that reason. It meant that his work had become largely unobtainable unless you trawled second-hand sites on the web. This publication rectifies things.

Photo and more information found on Tom Raworth’s blog.

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Posted in Poetry News on Tuesday, May 22nd, 2012 by Harriet Staff.