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Centre and Periphery in Modern British Poetry

Volume: 34
Copyright Date: 2005
Edition: 1
Pages: 272
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  • Book Info
    Centre and Periphery in Modern British Poetry
    Book Description:

    Does what is true depend on where you are? or, can we speak of a British culture which varies gradually over the 600 miles from one end of the island to the other, with currents gradually mutating and turning into their opposites as they cross such a distance? In Centre and Periphery in Modern British Poetry Andrew Duncan (a published poet himself) identifies distinctive traditions in three regions of the Britsh Isles providing a polemic tour of Scotland, Wales, and the North of England while revealing the struggle for ‘cultural assets’. The book exposes the possibility that the finest poets of the last 50 years have lived in the outlands, not networking and neglecting to acquire linguistic signs of status. Centre and Periphery in Modern British Poetry provides insightful accounts of major poets such as Sorley Maclean, Glyn Jones, Colin Simms, and Michael Haslam.

    eISBN: 978-1-84631-279-3
    Subjects: Language & Literature

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-v)
  3. Acknowledgements
    (pp. vi-vi)
  4. Preface
    (pp. vii-xii)
  5. Part I: The Spatial Distribution of Cultural Assets

    • 1 The State of Poetry
      (pp. 3-36)

      The British industrial crisis of the early 1980s was especially severe and rapid in its onset; its political consequences were unusually deep because the central government was not saying that this was a disaster that it would do everything in its power to ameliorate, it was saying that any kind of intervention in favour of weak firms or large payrolls was immoral and corrupting, and that what hurt most was most virtuous. This broke the faith of entire sectors of society in government. The media correctly made the electorate aware that the Conservatives were losing elections in the North, Wales...

    • 2 The Structure of Space
      (pp. 37-51)

      The possibility of misreading a line or a poem has directed us to sets of verbal analogies to the poem’s parts, stacked and stored as history, sociology and literary comparison, as a field that dis-ambiguates them. The correlating has hitherto brought puzzlement and self-doubt: the pictures resemble each other but cannot be made to overlay satisfactorily. Making analogies does not give a perfectly clear picture, and any analogy is structured by two fiats: it is allowed to operate within a certain stretch of time and a certain area of the earth, but is held to cease to operate beyond a...

    • 3 Centre and Periphery
      (pp. 52-69)

      The centre is impossible to find or define, since it is a paranoid fantasy of being controlled by a hostile and malevolent agency. How can you connect the government in Westminster, the electors who vote it in, the boards of multinationals, the shareholders of same, the City of London, the reviewers of poetry for the quality press, university teachers of English literature, the poets who are favoured by the reviewers, the Arts Council, the people who make television and radio programmes, the Americans who make cinema and much of what is shown on British television? Surely these are separate groups...

    • 4 Oral versus Literate
      (pp. 70-108)

      An important shift in the composition of the middle class occurred after about 1870, with the expansion of the government’s paid officials. This new group were serving the lower classes, whereas previously the professionals – teachers, doctors, lawyers, managers and so on – had served almost exclusively the possessor classes. The home civil service grew in parallel to the imperial civil service, numerous in those territories under direct rule. Growing in prosperity and numbers over a long run, civil servants are by now an important complement to the commercial and industrial sectors of the middle class.

      Relations between the middle class, including...

  6. Part II: Poetry of the North-Western Periphery

    • 5 ‘A Native Ardour of their Minds which Brooked No Master’: Poetry in the North of England
      (pp. 111-167)

      The North is classically Cheshire, Lancashire, Yorkshire, Northumberland and Durham, Cumberland and Westmorland. These boundaries and names were changed in the 1975 reform of local government areas, and again in 1996. The 1992 census showed 14,500,800 people in an area which includes all of these plus parts of North Lincolnshire culturally taken as being northern. This is about 30 per cent of the population of England and Wales, impressive since the region’s share of the medieval population was only 15 per cent: the North is a recently underdeveloped region. This state was dissolved primarily by better communications; the end of...

    • 6 Celticity Cumulative and in Decline: Poetry in the West of Scotland
      (pp. 168-202)

      The main feature of the modern history of Celtic languages has been their shrinking geographical and cultural hold: ‘declining Celticity’. The successor, in every case, has been English or a related dialect, identifying the Celtic cultures with the past in a double sense. There is as I write no possibility of any author making a living by writing in Welsh or Gaelic. Gaelic is at the present time spoken by about 2 per cent of the population of Scotland, Welsh by about 25 per cent of the population of Wales, Cornish by no-one except in evening classes, Cumbric and Manx...

    • 7 Putting a People in its Place: Anglo-Welsh Poetry 1937–1979
      (pp. 203-240)

      It is extraordinary how many modern Welsh writers have been political activists. This is a quite different pattern from England. It is Atlantic radicalism, on a West coast suffering long-term economic decline and feeling itself remote from the outlook of the government in London. The regionally polarised patterns of electoral geography will presumably be reflected in poetry taking an increasingly regionalist and politically radical view. However, in the realm of the media and the powers that be (not of Welsh public opinion), these attitudes are dangerous, semi-legal, excluded from a voice in decisions. The Welsh have been frustrated and radicalised...

  7. Conclusion: Balkanisation: The Sound of Confusion
    (pp. 241-243)

    I am still fascinated by Eric Homberger’s use of the word ‘Balkanisation’, which is so evocative of parts of the exploded poetry world since the boom that began around 1959. (‘Deregulation’ is another term that springs to mind.) But it makes me uneasy, too: does it not refer to a geographical area seamed with subdivisions which are important to events but which we, as Westerners, find too trivial and confusing to be worth remembering? And to a political area populated by factions so polarised against each other, and so intimately intertwined, that no accurate information can be obtained about anything,...

  8. Bibliography
    (pp. 244-250)
  9. Index
    (pp. 251-255)