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Friday, 6 May 2016

The Typewriter Revolution: The Poetic Prequel - Two Professors, Two Pre-Eminent, Peerless Poets

D.J. Enright: His "shock of grey hair ... emerged from his head
like a coil of smoke in a high wind."
NOTE: Some online versions of Enright's 1971 poem - one blogger thinks it was written in 1920, the year Enright was born - have incorrect brand "spellings" and symbols. This version is correct, taken directly from Enright's collection, in all aspects. (LSD = pounds, shillings and pence.) It was printed in Richard Polt's Cassandre Graphika font.
My heart went out to the Bard of Cincinnati this morning, when I read his blog post "Failures!" Of course, as most comments pointed out, 27 poems in one month was anything but a failure - though I am familiar with that sinking feeling, of setting a target within specific parameters and falling just that little bit short.
As it happened, I was thinking of the Bard's superb effort only yesterday, when I visited the National Library of Australia here in Canberra to do some research for an upcoming blog post of my own. I was aware the library had a couple of books of poetry with "typewriter" in the titles, so while waiting for the tome I needed to be hauled up from the vaults, I requested one of them, one I had been meaning to read for some time. The reason I chose this one was because it had the title "The Typewriter Revolution". Of course, our National Library has two books with this same title, the other written by the Bard himself, 44 years after D.J. Enright's collection, and donated by me last year.
It's one of those delicious coincidences that Richard Polt, the author of The Typewriter Revolution we all so love and admire, should be committed to writing poetry with typewriters when an earlier poet had written a poem with that very title, a title he gave to a collection of his poetry.
This earlier poet was an Englishman, Dennis Joseph Enright, known as D.J. Enright,  who was, like Professor Polt, an academic, poet and critic. He was also a novelist and anthologist. Enright authored Memoirs of a Mendicant Professor in 1969, two years before his The Typewriter Revolution & Other Poems was published by The Library Press in New York. The title of the "Mendicant Professor" came from an official Government rebuke the "beatnik" Enright received following a lecture he gave in Singapore in 1960 (see the so-called "Enright Affair"). Enright also wrote a wide range of essays, reviews, anthologies and children's books.
Born in 1920 at Royal Leamington Spa, Warwickshire, just 14 miles from Rugby, Enright graduated from Cambridge University and held academic posts in Egypt (1947-50, lecturer in English, University of Alexandria), Japan (1953-56, visiting professor, Konan University), Germany (1956-57, Free University, Berlin), Thailand (1957-59, British Council professor at Chulalongkorn University) and Singapore. Returning to London in 1970, he edited Encounter magazine (as Richard does ETCetera) and subsequently worked in publishing. Enright died aged 82 in London on New Year's Eve, 2002, five years to the day before the death of Ettore Sottsass, designer of the Olivettis that Enright had gently lampooned in his The Typewriter Revolution in 1971, calling them "Lovitevvis" and "Alliwettis".

She doesn't seem to realise that "i.e." is "that is", as in "that is the question", nor that LSD means pounds, shillings and pence. Some versions say "Framintong", but Enright actually wrote "Ramintong".
In its obituary, The Guardian called Enright "the unsung hero of post-war British poetry and a reluctant candidate as poet laureate in 1984". "It is hard to think of a poet whom other poets held in more affection." Above all he was funny - "a person for whom the adjective 'sardonic' was invented". "It is for the wit, compassion and self-mockery of his poetry that Dennis will be remembered."
The Telegraph said, "if anybody of his time was descended from that extinct species, the English man of letters, then it was he, although 'English' underestimates a figure of such cosmopolitan sensibility. Though widely, and rightly, revered by his fellow writers, he was never as well known to the world at large as he perhaps deserved; his geniality and apparent self-deprecation were often misleading." "He combined, to a rare degree, wit and profundity, accessibility and sophistication, a sardonic delight in puns, with a melancholic awareness of human frailty and imperfections."


Joe V said...

As always, your blog is an enlightening education. Thank you, Robert.

Steve K said...

Brilliant! Love the lesdyxic Lovitevvi!

Robert Messenger said...

Thanks Joe and Steve. I actually had to look twice at "Alliwettis" before working out what it was!

Bill M said...

Very well done Robert.
I wonder how many, under maybe 40, would know i.e. or LSD. Here in the USA most would think LSD as in drugs.

Stephen Cooper said...

I wonder how many more pre-computer anglicisms are there? / was always 'stroke'in English before 'slash' took over. Confess that section is somewhat lost one me. But brilliant unearthing of this pome (sic)

Richard P said...

Thanks for shedding light on Enright. I knew his poem and the title of his book, but none of the rest of it.