Wednesday, November 16, 2005

Allen Fisher's PLACE, recently printed in its entirety (five separate books now under one cover, published by Ken Edwards's Reality Street Editions) is the most important book of English poetry published in the UK since Stuart Montgomery's Fulcrum Press issued Basil Bunting's Selected Poems, wrote the distinguished poet and editor, Jeremy Hilton in issue #26 of his poetry journal, FIRE (Oxfordshire, England). I heartily concur. Fisher's lyric gift, almost as poignant as the work of the late Paul Evans, was always tempered with a gentle yet penetrating irony, and was most evident in his fine early work, LONG SHOUT TO KERNEWEK (New London Pride). New London Pride is a flower long thought to be extinct and then found growing through the cracks in the hard pavements of London, and New London Pride Editions was the brainchild of Fisher's lovely and dynamic first wife, Elaine, from East London, who died at an early age while on the NHS waiting list for a kidney transplant. She always believed that she contracted the disease while working as a young woman in Newark, New Jersey, near to electricity grids later investigated as places of cancer clusters. PLACE was a ten year project, roughly 1970 - 1980, influenced by American modernist models, Pound and Olson most specifically, but filtered through a South London working-class sensibility in which the hidden historical energies of the city, south of the river, Brixton, most especially, (down south, london town as mark knopfler sang) flowed as a leitmotif. Eric Mottram was an early champion of Fisher's work, publishing many excerpts in Poetry Review, during Mottram's editorship (20 issues during the 1970's) of that journal which now seems so central to what has come to be called The British Poetry Renaissance, circa 1965 - 1980 and beyond. Much of Fisher's continuing work after PLACE, is a multi-layered multi-textured multi-voiced discourse titled GRAVITY AS A CONSEQUENCE OF SHAPE, more unremitting than PLACE, and still-in-progress.