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Saturday, 12 April 2008

The Death of Andrew Crozier

Sad news. The significant British poet Andrew Crozier died on April 3rd. Eyewear asked Ian Brinton to write a few words. They are below:

Andrew Crozier 1943-2008

As an undergraduate in his third year reading English at Christ’s College, Cambridge, Andrew Crozier edited what Ralph Maud was to call ‘an Olson-biased’ American Supplement to Granta. The short collection was largely based on Donald Allen’s landmark publication, The New American Poetry 1945-60 and included work by Robert Duncan, Edward Dorn, Robert Creeley and John Wieners. At the end of this publishing adventure which was prepared to rattle the status of the safe English Movement poets Crozier appended a letter from Charles Olson to George Butterick which included the phrase ‘freshen our sense of the language we do have’ adding that ‘the spirit of Olson informs this whole collection: he is the major figure in mid-century American letters.’ It was no surprise then that Crozier should have quoted a line from Olson as the title for his own Collected Poems (Agneau 2, Allardyce, Barnett 1985): All Where Each Is.

A major figure in the Cambridge movement of poetry, Crozier founded Ferry Press in which the list of publications included Brass by J.H. Prynne as well as work by John James, Douglas Oliver, Peter Riley, John Temple and Chris Torrance. He co-edited The English Intelligencer in 1966 before moving to the recently-founded Department of Comparative Literature in the new university of Essex where he started The Wivenhoe Park Review which in turn became The Park when he moved to teach at Keele University.

Whilst studying at SUNY (Buffalo) he played the major part in the re-establishment of the Objectivist Carl Rakosi as a prominent poet in America. Having discovered the slim 1941 volume of Rakosi’s Selected Poems he recognised the enormous talent in this work prompting him to set out to discover what he could about the poet and why he had ceased to write. The journey was not easy since Rakosi had changed his name to Callman Rawley but Crozier’s determination finally unearthed the poet and in an interview Rakosi gave in 1986 he said ‘If Crozier had not written that letter, I might not have gone back to writing.’ In 1987 he edited the anthology A Various Art (Carcanet) which, as The Oxford English Literary History suggested, ‘scorned the pusillanimous set of conventions consolidated by the Movement in the 1950s’.

Jeremy Prynne’s introduction to Crozier’s first published volume of poetry, Loved Litter of Time Spent, referred to a central quality in the writing ‘the possible as it really comes over, day by day’. This sense of a quality of space in which the importance of life can take hold haunts Crozier’s remarkable achievement in The Veil Poem, a collection of nine interrelated pieces which engage with the relationship between the self and the surrounding world. This interrelatedness is a central aspect of Crozier’s work from the early "The Life Class" ("Nothing is to be the sign/of a separate history") to the later prose poem "Driftwood and Seacoal":

Those massed identities, spread one way and another, banked and scattered in new neighbourhoods. I hold them like your bearing in me, between a beacon and the showy stars, looking along the pebbles on the beach. So others in us, if, not therefore not, but also, go separately together.


Ian Brinton is a critic and schoolteacher based at Dulwich College. His latest book, Contemporary Poetry: Poets and Poetry since 1990: (Cambridge Contexts in Literature) is out autumn 2008. He is Chair of the English Association's secondary schools committee in the UK and the Editor of The Use of English for The English Association.
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