Anthologies by Kristina Woolnough, Books editor.
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he Chatto Book of Nonsense
Poetry ed. Hugh IIaughton (Chatto and Windus £12.95) Such poetic greats as ‘l Iey Diddle Diddle’ are here celebrated and given anthological authority by Haughton. The two main practitioners in the genre. Lewis Carroll and Edward Lear are fulsomely represented. but the collection holds a bundle of surprises.
llaughton trawls wide for his material — pulling in Dadaist. Cubist. satirical. mock-epic. French. (ierman. Surrealist. Futurist. Russian. Romanian and Czech
poems from all centuries. By broadening out his definition of nonsense to include works which play on the borderline or use the distinction between what makes sense and what parodies the ponderousness ofsense. Haughton presents a motley read.
llis introduction. which initially warns about the reﬂexive attempts to derive meaning and sense out of works which lie outwith those realms. then paradoxically moves on to intellectualise the whole phenomenon. Indeed. poems which are nonsensical in meaning do have an inherent sense in rhyme and structure. They make sense to the ear. and as such are often the first poems children learn: ‘On the top of the Crumpetty Tree The Quangle Wangle sat. ‘But his face you could not see . On account of his Beaver llatf
Nursery rhymes and children's verse are a small component. Entries include John Donne‘s conceitful ‘Song‘. which begins ‘Goe. and catche a falling starre'. some of Shakespeare‘s 'mad‘ songs. poems by Keats. Shelley. Coleridge and a surprising one by Norman MacCaig — ‘After His Death‘. inscribed ‘For
52 The List 25 Nov - 8 Dec 1988
Of the foreign poems. some are decreed so unintelligible that they can‘t be translated. ()ddities that have found their way into English display the limitless horizons of Haughton's search for material — Serbo-Croat poems can‘t have been that easy to find.
It‘s an absorbing. challenging book which forces a perspective on sense which is not altogether ﬂattering: ‘Naked he stands on his balcony and shouts to passers-by: *‘For God’s sake. do not forget your watch!‘ (Kristina Woolnough)
I The Faber Book of Seductions ed. Jenny Newman (Faber £12.95) Under the editorship ofan ex-nun. this one proved a choice morsel. Infinitely readable. it contains the best excerpts from the best of books.
I Kissing The Rod: An Anthology of 17th Century Women's Verse ed. Germaine Greer. Jeslyn Medoff. Melinda Sansone. Susan Hastings (Virago £27.50) The volume au‘gured well. seeming to fill a
cavernous hole in literary studies. but turned out to be a rather dry. hcavily-annotated selection. It's nonetheless a seminal text.
I First and Always: Poems for Great Ormond Street Children’s Hospital (Faber £5.95) All proceeds from this book go to the I Iospital's Wishing Well Appeal. The poems are new ones from Britain's best poets — the contents list reads like a scroll of worthy bardic contemporaries.
I The Magic Wheel: An Anthology of Fishing Literature ed. David I’rofumo and (iraham Swift (Pan £5.95) A surprisingly large number of writers are shown to have dangled a line and been inspired by the act. A good catch for the boffin-angler and the literary boffin alike.
I Naming The Waves: Contemporary Lesbian Poetry cd. Christian McEwcn (\‘irago £5.95) Well-edited
mixed bag of transatlantic poems covering the personal and the campaigning. the love poem and the protest.
I The Faber Book of Letters ed. Felix Pryor (Faber t.‘ I 2.95) Great collection of missives conveying many things in many senders‘ tones— from Sir Philip Sydney‘s epistolary threat (‘I will thruste my Dagger into yow’) to Nelson's earliest love letter to Lady Hamilton. The one from Red lndian Chief Seattle to President Franklin Pierce is a fine one too.
I The Lost Voices of World War 1: An International Anthology of Writers, Poets and Playwrights 'I‘im Cross (Bloomsbury £14.95) Biographical profiles of (10 writers. familiar. forgotten and unknown. who were culturally productive as a result of the First World War. plus extracts from their work.
SEX AND IRONING
Kristina Woolnough applies
nquire Within Upon Everything
Moyra Bremner (Century Hutchinson £15.95) The original was a bestsellerin 1856 and ran to 126 editions up until 1976. It has been totally re-written and now describes itself as "I‘hc Complete Home Reference Book'.
In essence. it is a DIY survival guide. written in the great tradition of family encyclopaedias. which in this day and age might have been published as weekly pull-outs to ‘keep and save‘ in co-ordinating ring-binder. But it wasn't. Instead. we have one fat volume which tells us how to cope: with builders. money. pregnancy. laying the table. wearing the right clothes. bringing up children. schools. health. removing stains etc.
As is perhaps inevitable. it says a little about a lot — sometimes seeming obvious. at other times divulging little gems. For instance. don‘t going swimming in shark-infested waters if you‘ve got a period — women have died from it. If you are the sort to host a buffet. do remember to chop the lettuce finely for guest-ease and try to serve only food which is edible with a fork. Covering a spectrum of interests. ‘Enquire Within‘ also lists good wine years. births and deaths of the alumni of the human race and notable dates too. Let me be the media-first to mark 1989 as the 150th birthday of the bicycle and the 50th birthday of the helicopter. And no
herself to learning the art
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doubt much will be made next year of it being 20 years since man landed on the moon.
The tone of voice is variable. on occasion knuckle-rapping and do-as-your-mother—tells-you. but Bremner acknowledges from the outset that. by the very nature of the book. this might be the case. For all that. it will guide us through the pitfalls and challenges of life — how to iron a shirt. cure an animal skin. look after pets. It is also a worthy social document. which. as fashions change and evolve. will one day seem as quaint and backward as its predecessor. Unfortunately there exists one major drawback — where Scottish law or custom differs. only the English version is given. (Kristina Woolnough)