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Why Not Indeed?
The Isle Is Full of Noises: for Harold Hikins, Poet
(Benham Publishing Ltd. in association with Liverpool City Council.£6.99)
Rizwan Mirza Poetry Seen: portraits and poems of contemporary
(published by FAB in a limited edition of 1500 copies. No price given)
First of all, I have to declare an interest. I am featured in both of these books. This article, therefore, is more by way of a notice than critical review. Both books say something about poetry on Merseyside: one a celebration of poet and organiser of readings, Harold Hikins, the other a book of photographic portraits.
In 2001, Liverpool University Press published a collection of essays, Gladsongs and Gatherings: poetry in its social context in
Harold Hikins is now eighty-three. It could be said, therefore, that this festschrift volume has been a long time coming. So it is good at last to see that someone – in this instance Kevin McCann – has had the idea and the energy to bring it off. We should be delighted that Harold is being rightly celebrated at last.
Of course many more poets read at The Why Not than could ever be represented in the present book. McCann, in his Foreword, states it this way: ‘my first idea was to select poems, old and new, from as many people who’d read at the Why Not as possible. But that would have run to twenty volumes at least. So I picked my favourites…’ Which is fair enough. But one misses contributions (perhaps they couldn’t be traced after all these years) from poets like Malcolm Barnes, Olga Benjamin, Kailash Buri, Roger Shuttleworth, Angela Topping… and, importantly (they were central figures at the time), Jim Blackburn and David Porter. What we have then is over eighty poems from thirty poets – some, I have to say, not directly associated with The Why Not.
Inevitably, as with almost all anthologies, the quality is variable but you will find good poems by Michael Horovitz, Pete Morgan, Adrian Mitchell, the Big Three, and the late Frances Horovitz. I was particularly taken by the poems of that dark-horse of a poet, Dave Calder. But there is much here to please everyone. It gives worthy recognition to a man who has generated much energy and real commitment to furthering the cause of poetry on Merseyside. I am very pleased to be part of it.
Rizwan Mirza is a photographer, born in
If one were to see the book as representative of the best or of the foremost then there are many obvious serious omissions…Harold Hikins, Sylvia Hikins, Gladys Mary Coles, Peggy Poole, Michael Murphy, Brian Wake, Dave Ward (better poets than some of the ones included here) and many others. It is hard to know what the criteria for selection might have been. Perhaps it is simply how the photographs turned out. I know for a fact that a couple of the poets mentioned above were contacted and their pictures taken.
The photographs are for the most part striking and creative (for example Paul Farley gazing wistfully through a café window, Jamie McKendrick looking like a Greek warrior, Levi Tafari like a bronze bust, Tony Dash hidden behind a puff of cigar smoke). The book is nice to handle, itself a work of art. See it as a collection of portraits of some ‘
© Matt Simpson 2002