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Thursday, 12 June 2008

Veronica Forrest-Thomson: Why is Poetic Artifice So Hard To Find?

No other single poet-critic is arguably as important for post-war British poetry (not even Empson, Alvarez , Hamilton or Heaney) as Veronica Forrest-Thomson, one of the eccentric geniuses that the UK seems to produce every so often. To simplify, she took Wittgenstein's ideas about language and the world, and applied them to the language games within poetic practice. Her influence on the alternative poetic traditions of the British isles is immense - indeed, she also inspired Charles Bernstein and the "Language poets" of America (her Introduction to Poetic Artifice lays the groundwork for his Artifice of Absorption, when she writes, "all norms of other kinds of discourse are changed when absorbed by a poem"). Alison Mark's Veronica Forrest-Thomson and Language Poetry is a good place to start, for those who want to read more.

So, here's the question, how come it is so hard to locate copies of her brilliant, significant masterwork, Poetic Artifice? Does anyone know of a reprint currently available, from Shearsman, Salt or Carcanet, say? The original goes for over £100 on the Internet. It seems strange, even almost scandalous, that such an important critical work, whose thoughts and implications underpin so much of the Cambridge school of poetry, and beyond, should lie out of the reach of many of those who might want to easily own a copy. Yes, it is in (some) libraries, but hardly in great numbers. I look forward to someone clearing this up.
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