Thursday, August 29, 2013

Lately, amid my many other desk-projects, I've been reviewing Alan Jenkins's poetry collection Revenants for the U.K. journal New Walk. Jenkins is an extremely well known English poet who as far as I can tell is almost unread in the United States. I think that's usual, but it's still odd. Americans are remarkably self-centered in almost everything they do, yet there's a respect for poetry in translation (especially if it's from an exciting war-torn place) that for some reason doesn't transfer to new work from other English-speaking countries.

I'm as guilty as anyone else in this matter . . . guiltier, even, because I don't read much new American work either, which may be why I'm particularly puzzled by the disconnect between contemporary British and American poets. Canonical British literature is not only the foundation of American literature instruction but also the centerpiece of my own reading life. And it's true that Americans do seem to read contemporary British prose writers: Zadie Smith, Hilary Mantel, A. S. Byatt, et al. So why aren't the poets reading the poets?

Anyway, back to Alan Jenkins. Revenants is a very good collection, and I wish I could give you more details about why I think so. However, we both have to wait till the review comes out. In the meantime, you can check out some of his work here.

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