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Fallece Mick Imlah January 14, 2009

Posted by hyperboreapoetry in Noticias.
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Mick Imlah in Venice in 1987

Fuente: The Guardian

The poet Mick Imlah, whose volume of poetry, The Lost Leader, won the 2008 Forward prize for best collection and is shortlisted for tonight’s TS Eliot prize, has died, aged 52.

The Lost Leader was only the second collection of poetry from Imlah, who was diagnosed with motor neurone disease in December 2007. His first volume, Birthmarks, was published in 1988 — a full 20 years earlier — to critical acclaim: reviewing it in the Times Literary Supplement, Neil Corcoran described him as “a poet of striking originality and cunning, a genuinely distinctive voice in the murmur and babble of the contemporary”. The poetry community had been impatient for a follow-up ever since, but Fleur Adcock, one of the judges of last year’s Forward prize, saw the wait as worthwhile on the grounds that “so much richness had been building up all that time”. Chair of the judges Frieda Hughes, meanwhile, called The Lost Leader “quite brilliant”, praising it in exalted terms as “an astonishing city in which live the characters that he describes with humour, wit and an unerring eye”.

Born in 1956 and raised near Glasgow, Imlah combined a highly successful, if spare, poetic output with a parallel career in literary journalism. He was editor of the prestigious Poetry Review from 1983 until 1986, and worked at the Times Literary Supplement from 1992, where he was poetry editor. In 2000, he edited the New Penguin Book of Scottish Verse with fellow poet Robert Crawford.

Imlah is survived by his partner and two daughters.

—-

Un Poema:

I’m not suggesting he was Oscar Wilde . . .

(Archibald Primrose, 1847–)

I’m not suggesting he was Oscar Wilde,
when I say, we all quoted him; he spoke
more squarely than that gentleman. Besides,
his phrases had the stamp of mass production
and general currency – see, you probably
had one or two of them loose in your pocket:
nation of amateurs, ploughing his furrow alone.
And then his name, like Wallace or Wellington’s,
crept into our streets and public houses:
he was the Earl of Rosebery, richest man
in Scotland; and, for an exacting year
and more, Prime Minister of the United
Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland.

But there was one remark attributed
to Rosebery that I never liked (though why
I wouldn’t know till I was older), made
at Parkhead, 1900: to the captain
of the Scottish eleven, which, taking the field
in Rosebery’s racing colours of pink
and yellow hoops – he was their President,
but still, this seemed an honour overdone
to one not royal, exactly – had just thrashed
their English counterparts, four goals to one,
the greatest margin yet in the auld fixture –
holding his grin for the photographer –
“I haven’t seen my colours so well sported
since Ladas won the Derby!” – general laughter.
(He’d left his Oxford college, not under
the usual cloud, but in a lord’s dudgeon,
because the University rules required him
as an undergraduate, not to own a racehorse:
becoming an earl at twenty, he had said,
does not dispose “one” to obedience.)
My thoughts were, then, that men should not be seen
in either of those two colours, or so nakedly
be made to run the race for someone else;
now, that he took one turf for another,
ours for his, and none had dared correct him.

Well, I had plenty to go on. My editor,
who’d used his club before the war, had warned me,
not disapprovingly, he could be cutting
and sarcastic: of his own wife, for instance,
as they left separately for a summer on Skye,
Hannah and the rest of the heavy baggage
will follow later; nor did he much enjoy
critical noises. But publicly he floated
on a cloud of pride, that bore him high and clear
like a balloon, whenever someone not
his equal – and surely few seemed otherwise –
appeared to him to be provoking him.

(At which he would lean back, hearing all this
quietly, only inflating slightly, as if to say,
“These” – quoting another – “are certainly some
of my characteristics, and I glory in them.”)

Known as unwounded, too – superbly so –
by innuendo, likewise implication,
he was forced (or so it seemed) to defend himself
in the skirmishes after the Queensberry hearing,
when rumours grew particular about himself
and the Marquess’s son, and the blows got low
at the same time, round Rosebery’s late wife.
Namely, as one of them dared in fact to put it,
“Why, sir, did you marry a Rothschild?” (meaning,
and understood to mean, – and one so plain
you can’t pretend the attraction was natural).
At which he glared for a moment at the questioner –
his eyebrows preternaturally still – and quipped,
would you believe, in the face of such ill-will,
“That we might lie together in life’s index.”
Cool; pretentious; shutting them up for as long
as it took their wits to work it out; disdaining
to feed their envy. Then, “Also, of course,
to get my greasy hands on the Mentmore stud.”

These were the means by which he kept warm
his authority, even when he was ailing.
At the hour of Armistice, which came, alas,
after his stroke – that rendered him speechless
into the autumn – and failed to inspire him,
the whole host of Edinburgh gathered outside
his town house there, while he was propped upstairs
just semi-conscious, – shouting out his name
like a football chant, Rozbury, Rozbury,
as if he’d scored twice on their piece of field.
And I suppose we will cheer for anything
that lets us own a bit of its victory,
even if it is stricken or so struck
it can’t get to the window to wave back
or utter a word to clinch the occasion.

So whether, indeed, his powers of recovery
“confounded his physicians”, or with the loss
of finer faculties, as one reported,
he’d “hardened into dogma”, either seemed
to me a daunting prospect: he took on
the character of the headstrong general,
let down, scathing of both sides – but showing
his utmost in the fog and shame of retreat.

And that was when I met him – or, rather,
he allowed me half an hour out of a day.
It was a new thing then, the interview,
brought from America, like women smoking,
but hardly subversive, yet: the courtesies
would still apply, not least in this case.
All morning I’d felt as you do in dreams
when it’s time for you to take the penalty,
but the ref has lost the place, the big keeper
keeps stalling, there’s a minor crowd invasion,
and even as you begin your run-up a crow
has settled impertinently on the ball;
till at last I was set, after a train down
from Waterloo to Epsom, on the long
avenue of budding limes that led around
to the front of Durdans – his “out-of-London” house.
It was late April, and a lovely day:
low sun, light wind, daffodils everywhere,
and barely a hint of egg-and-bacon hoops
in the tufts of lambswool cloud that fringed the sky.
Classically fine; but silent, too; as if
the birds had been flushed off the property;
1919, the winter’s virus still
camped on the downs, it felt that everything
English was exhausted. Except for this,
which tells you just how far we were away
from Russia yet: that here, one kind of man
with both his legs, if now lame in the left,
and multiple homes could still expect to bathe
in a freshening pool of national sympathy.
As if we knew, and let it matter, that
he’d been unhappy, in all his place and riches.

Stick to the questions. So I ran them through,
scraping my cane along the sweep of gravel:
Do you regret your ministry was not
a longer one – though so much was achieved?
– or, Was it the splits within your own party,
or the Irish crisis, more, that brought you down –
no – that we should blame the more for your
untimely exit? (“Neither. The truth is,
I had to get out sharp, I was seeing things”) –
And in retirement, what . . .
When in breezed
his amazing daughter. “How d’ye do!
I’m Peggy Crewe – You must be – Modicum . . .”
– offered her hand, and gave me such a smile
I think I said, Indeed I was – I watched
the daisies on her dress – she held her smile;
and as her hand withdrew, I was wondering
at the way this being shone in her station,
whose grace was almost natural, almost
the real thing; and, how I would be the first
to fall in behind her lead or standard –

“But go straight through, he’ll be expecting you –
and don’t let him start on the spring flowers!”
I barely heard; and then with perfect timing
she’d disappeared. – But when I knocked
and entered he was already talking in that
maimed magnificent voice, emphatically, as if
to a nurse or a second invalid concealed
round the dog-leg of the sports or morning room;
to someone who had gone too far
with primula, as a name – “a silly name”;
and “If I call them primroses, it is
because that is exactly what they are.”


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