Frank Kuppner: Reprints and Revivals
February 26, 2010
It would be distinctly excessive to suggest that I spend much time deep in contemplation, whether anguished or otherwise, about out-of-print poets, presumably dead, who might deserve to be republished – I seem to have enough problems of my own in that general area to keep myself occupied – and, for tedious technical reasons, your kind invitation to contribute to the Reprints & Revivals column did not reach me until shortly before the proposed deadline, so my initial impulse was merely to thank you for the friendly thought and let it go. However, it crossed my mind just in time that there might be a welcome opportunity here for me to offer a more or less off-the-cuff vote of thanks for a slim but often brilliant body of work which massively impressed and delighted me in my late teens; which pretty much since then has always seemed to me to be oddly under-appreciated; and which, if nothing else, brings back to me with great and touching keenness the feeling of exhilaration and energy and almost infinite potential-in-waiting of those now so alien years of irrational (not to say, insane) optimism – (pre-Internet, pre-PC, even pre-decimal coinage! was I really alive then?) – before mere sardonic reality began to do its usual grind-you-down stuff with (to not quote Hopkins) the brakes, glue, contrary winds, indifference and nail-file.
Indeed, some of it may even be technically still in print. Certainly I remember that, quite a good while ago now, Polygon published a Selected Poems of D.M. Black, and that this happened after I had more than once expressed my enthusiasm for the man’s work (how crucially I can no longer recall, if I ever quite knew) to Polygon’s then leading-light, Peter Kravitz. Indeed, such was my enthusiasm for the early publications (The Educators, The Old Hag and, perhaps most of all, With Decorum – before the poet took a sort of formal expression, Eastern Religion turn which rather threw me off his track) that I suggested he should announce a multi- volume, chronologically arranged edition of the Collected Poems and at all costs publish Volume One. Not that there wasn’t more to Black’s oeuvre – (long narratives like Notes for Joachim, for instance; and did I just imagine something called Parsifal?) – but I felt that all this early material should be back in print immediately, en bloc, as a matter of some urgency. It reached so many uncanny, difficult-to-access places that were well worth getting to, by means of a technique of dazzling flair and apparently effortless, almost ridiculous panache which reminded me of no-one else. And – though, I suppose, this may only be ignorance and dubious judgement talking – such is still pretty much the case.
Frank Kuppner was born in Glasgow in 1951 and has lived there ever since. He has been Writer in Residence at various institutions. His latest book is Arioflotga (Carcanet, 2008). This piece first appeared in our Poetry Reader, issue 5.