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William Plomer: Selected Poems217
He was E. M Forster s favourite contemporary poet . W. H Auden extolled his first-class visual imagination . Stephen Spender considered his output among the best English poems written in the present century . Yet for most readers, William Plomer (19031973) is now a faintly-remembered name. Born in Pietersburg, South Africa, Plomer settled in London in 1929, where he went on to occupy a central position in English letters. By the time of his death he had published ten books of poetry. In a voice impersonal and strange, Plomer s best poems reveal a mind that delights in the sensory, pictorial and plastic (though not, as he thought, at the expense of the metaphysical). Glittering surfaces are replete with hidden dangers: The Mediterranean sighs Because it is so calm: On an evening such as this The rustling of a palm Seems almost ominous, Whispering of nemesis. [Sounds of Pleasure: Cannes, 1938 ] By turns lyrical, amatory, satirical and dramatic, Plomer addresses his favourite subjectsAfrica, the divided self, aesthetic pleasure, the macabre and the absurdwith a formal assurance, bleak wit and urgency of feeling.This rich and thorough selection presents, for the first time in almost fifty years, Plomer s best. "
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"A welcome rescue operation on the unjustly forgotten William Plomer, novelist, librettist, and (above all) poet of decorous wistfulness and cunning, understated mastery." --Roger Kimball, Publisher and Editor, The New Criterion; publisher, Encounter Books "This Selected Poems is a welcome sign that Plomer the poet is still with us . . . [whose] cool, precise and impersonal style may put off modern readers with a taste for confessional candour and soul-searching. He was no tub-thumper but favoured (as he wrote to Stephen Spender) 'the sensory, pictorial and plastic rather than the philosophical, metaphysical or political.'" --David Collard, Times Literary Supplement
Neilson MacKay is a doctoral candidate at the University of Durham and visiting fellow at Harvard University. Currently completing a thesis on poetry in the Little Magazines of the interwar years, Nielson's writing and criticism has appeared in The New Criterion, amongst others. William Plomer, (born Dec. 10, 1903, Transvaal, S.Af.died Sept. 21, 1973, Lewes, East Sussex, Eng.) South African-born British man of letters, whose writing covered many genres: poetry, novels, short stories, memoirs, and even opera librettos. Plomer was educated in England but returned with his family to South Africa after World War I. His experience as an apprentice on a remote farm in the eastern Cape when he was 17 alerted him to the literary possibilities of the South African landscape and established the sensibility of his early works. His first novel, Turbott Wolfe (1925), caused a scandal because it touched upon miscegenation and dared to criticize the supposed benevolence of whites toward blacks, even casting some white characters in the role of villains. I Speak of Africa (1927), a collection of short stories, exacerbated his reputation. In collaboration with Laurens Van Der Post and the iconoclastic poet Roy Campbell, he founded a magazine called Voorslag (Whiplash ) with which he intended to excoriate South African racist society. Public outrage silenced the journal, and Plomer and Campbell left the country. Plomer travelled in Japan and Europe before returning to England, where to all intents he became a British man of letters, though some of his work continued to draw upon his travels. In England he wrote two dramatic novels about London, The Case Is Altered (1932) and The Invaders (1934). Additional publications included a semifictional memoir, Museum Pieces (1952), and three volumes of family and personal memoirs, Double Lives (1943), At Home (1958), and Autobiography of William Plomer (1975). Between 1938 and 1940 he edited three volumes of the diaries of the Victorian clergyman Francis Kilvert. His association with the British composer Benjamin Britten began with the opera Gloriana (1953) and continued with librettos for the cantatas Curlew River (1964), The Burning Fiery Furnace (1966), and Prodigal Son (1968). One of his major achievements was Collected Poems (1960). His assimilation into English society is indicated by his service in Naval Intelligence during World War II and his years as senior editor with the publishing house Jonathan Cape. In 1968 he was made Commander of the Order of the British Empire."