Archive for April 21st, 2020

The poets identified

April 21, 2020

Sharon Phillips has kindly sent me this key to identifying those promising young poets of 1971 pictured on the book cover featured in the previous post:

Here’s the cover again:

Judging by the responses, both on the blog and in private emails, we all did pretty poorly at identifying them.

I spotted Heaney, of course, and Tony Harrison and Michael Longley. I was also right about Douglas Dunn and Ian Hamilton, and made a guess at Hugo Williams. I really should have got Brian Patten, and probably Peter Dale. Several others I made wildly wrong guesses about.

The picture that surprises me is Jon Stallworthy. Not only was he a good poet, but I met him, memorably. In 2010 I was fortunate indeed that he was the external examiner for my Ph.D. The Ph.D. viva can be a formidable process, but I thoroughly enjoyed mine. Jon Stallworthy asked some searching questions, but showed an enthusiastic interest in my answers, and shared his own insights into the matters I had investigated (The Representation of the Soldier in Great War Prose Literature, 1914-1930). Of course, when I met him, it was thirty-nine years after that picture was taken for the cover of the 1974 book, and he had changed considerably.

And now it’s forty-nine years since the book was published, and just to see the cover raises all sorts of questions (quite apart from the question raised in Sharon’s poem, about the apparent scarcity of women poets at that time). There are questions about time, and fame, and success, and the fashions in verse. Some of those young poets of 1974 are now revered; others are forgotten. Several probably left poetry and went on to other careers. Too many of them have died.

And that’s the way it goes.