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Tuesday, 14 September 2010

The Incredible Shrinking Poet: Nicholas Moore

I am writing a chapter on Nicholas Moore.  There is very little online or in print about this most remarkable of poets - except for what Peter Riley and Mark Ford and a few others have to say.  Encyclopedia Britannica online has 150 words on him.  He was born November 16, 1918 in Cambridgeshire, and died in 1986, was a conscientious objector and 1940s poet.

He worked closely with the major British poetry editors Tambimuttu and John Goodland, was the earliest English champion of Wallace Stevens, was widely respected in American poetry circles in the 40s, and by the 50s was pretty much totally persona non grata.  As Peter Riley observed in his introduction to the poet in Picador's Conductors of Chaos (the Picador before Don Paterson's differing tenure) - itself a curiously rare bird now - the poetry establishment/marketplace proved itself useless in spotting or rehabilitating talent as early as the 1960s, when it singularly failed to notice or publish Nicholas Moore, despite countless attempts to be published; one recalls the older Welles, unable to get arrested in Los Angeles.

How has such a stylish, marvellous, humane, funny, playful, brilliant poet - one admired by John Ashbery among others - managed to stay out of the limelight for so long?  In the rush to promote new poets, we may be doing an injustice if we do not also publish and republish the un-new ones, that remain mostly dead to us.  It is often said that poets keep poets alive in the commonwealth of their mutual respect and admiration - mostly not the case - poets cannot keep fellow deceased poets in print, or write essays about them, or get them into anthologies, or online, or onto syllabi's, or onto exam questions, or on the radio - unless they actively do so.  Moore remains out of print and lost again - 20 years after Carcanet's last rescue mission, in 1990, with a Selected itself out of print - and selling for over £100 now!
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