Firstly, they trace developments, often in the form of immediate reactions to newly published books, but occasionally as surveys of whole bodies of work, of what has been called the British Poetry Revival, the New British Poetry or - more narrowly and recently - Linguistically Innovative Poetry.
Secondly, they develop a series of literary critical concerns, delineating the historical context and general poetics of that work, a task that is continued, as yet in a piecemeal way, in more orthodox critical settings.
Thirdly, several pieces explicitly articulate what remains implicit in most of the rest: the gradual construction of a specific poetics relating to my own practice as a poet which, nevertheless, aims to be seen as part of the poetics and poetry from which it developed.
The forms, lengths and tones of these selections have sometimes been dictated by the demands or permissions of their various original periodical publications (which I have indicated, along with the date of composition, at the end of each piece), yet the resulting variety lends a certain polyphony to the whole that avoids the monologic voice of orthodox criticism. The slight mismatch between pieces I find additionally more authentic to my experience of thinking these things through over the past twenty years; it was less linear - more speculative, provisional, positional - than the results of this rigorous selection might suggest.
Apart from extended works of literary criticism, and some bits of language I'd rather forget, as well as shorter attempts that repeat assertions made here, I have felt impelled to exclude a number of pieces I should like to have made public again. My attacks (some of them satirical) on the Movement Orthodoxy, carried out during my entryist period as a reviewer for the New Statesman, deflect from the positive, even celebratory, aspect of this collection. My account of David Miller, "A Gap at the Heart of Things", appears in another Stride volume, At the Heart of Things. My review of Paul Evans' The Manual for the Perfect Organisation of Tourneys (Oasis Books), which I described - and still regard - as one of the best British poetry books of the 1970s, most recently re-appeared in The Empty Hill (Skylark Press).
14 December 1997
Link to new 'Introduction' and links to all contents of the book here.