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On the Lookout

C.H. Sisson

C .H. Sisson - On the Look-Out (Cover)
Imprint: Lives and Letters
Publisher: Carcanet Press
Available as:
Hardback (240 pages)
(Pub. Sep 1991)
£14.95 £13.45
  • Description
  • Author
  • Reviews
  • From Whitehall to a sergeants' mess in India, commuter Sevenoaks to Hitler's Berlin, pre-war Paris to working-class Bristol: this is the partial autobiography of C. H. Sisson.

    On the Look-Out, concentrating on Sisson's first half-century, will surprise the readers of his poems and essays both by its candour and its reticence. It is the story of a poet's exposure to the history of out time as student, soldier, civil servant, novelist, critic and translator, and the development of his dissident English perspectives. It casts new light on the literary history of the 1930s and the 1960s, when Sisson was part of the X group.

    He gave up writing poetry at the age of 20 and started again on a troopship at the age if 28. On the Look-Out reveals a man pursued by rather than pursuing poetry. In the first of the book's four parts (written in 1964) Sisson is Under Secretary at the Ministry of Labour. Reversing chronology, he follows himself back to the War. Part two, written immediately after the war, gives a vivid picture of India seen through the eyes of one of the British Other Ranks. The third pater resumes the reverse narrative, tracing Sisson back from London to Paris and Nazi Germany, undergraduate days at Bristol, childhood, and birth in 1914 in what has since become the Bristol Rovers' Supporters' Club. The book ends with a 'Letter from the Present'.

    Born in Bristol in 1914, C. H. Sisson was noted as a poet, novelist, essayist and an important translator. He was a great friend of the critic and writer Donald Davie, with whom he corresponded regularly. Sisson was a student at the University of Bristol where he read English and Philosophy. ... read more
    Praise for C.H. Sisson `His poems move in service of the loved landscapes of England and France; they sing (and growl) in love of argument, in love of seeing through, in love of the firm descriptions of moral self-disgust; they move in love of the old lost life by which the new life is condemned.'
    Donald Hall, New York Times Book Review
    'I think he is worth a place on the short shelf reserved for the finest twentieth-century poets, with Eliot and Rilke and MacDiarmid.'
    Robert Nye, the Scotsman
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