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Collected Poems and Selected Translations

Norman Cameron

Edited by Warren Hope and Jonathan Barker

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Price: GBP 13.45
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ISBN: 978 0 856462 02 3
Imprint: Anvil Press Poetry
Published: May 1990
223 x 150 x 9 mm
160 pages
Publisher: Carcanet Press
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  • Excerpt
  • Author

    Moonlight, Waterlight and Opal

    ‘Moonlight, Waterlight and Opal are good
    Corinthians, bad friends for a young man,’
    Said I, cronelike in my self-motherhood –
    Jealous, perhaps, for the more homely clan.

    I loved their glitter, like a mirror’s face
    Held to my revel with such flattering care.
    And when it might have tarnished, with what grace
    Moonlight, Waterlight, Opal were not there!

    These moonbeam niceties, sweet to undergo,
    Have been an austere discipline, the less
    Exceptionable in that trifling so
    I’ve learned to be content with nothingness.


    Punishment Enough

    They say that women, in a bombing-raid,
    Retire to sleep in brand-new underwear
    Lest they be tumbled out of doors, displayed
    In shabby garments to the public stare.

    You’ve often seen a house, sliced like a cheese,
    Displaying its poor secrets – peeling walls
    And warping cupboards. Of such tragedies
    It is the petty scale that most appals.

    When you confess your sins before a parson,
    You find it no great effort to disclose
    Your crimes of murder, bigamy and arson,
    But can you tell him that you pick your nose?

    If after death you pay for your misdeeds,
    Surely the direst and most just requital
    Would be to listen while an angel reads
    Before a crowd your endless, mean recital:

    Golf scorecards faked, thefts from your mother’s purse …
    But why should Doomsday bother with such stuff?
    This is the Hell that you already nurse
    Within you. You’ve had punishment enough.


    Je Suis François …

    from François Villon

    Francis by name, France’s by birth
    (I’ve never had much luck on earth),
    At Paris first I op’d my eyes
    (It is a hamlet near Pontoise);
    And soon my neck, to end the farce,
    Must learn how heavy is my arse.

    This is the first complete edition of the poetry of Norman Cameron (1905–53) to appear in Britain. As Jonathan Barker writes in his introduction, it is ‘the product of the shared transatlantic enthusiasm of Warren Hope and myself for the work of a poet whom we both see as unjustly neglected.’ Cameron has never lacked admirers among his fellow poets – Roy Fuller, Geoffrey Grigson, Robert Graves, among others – but since his skilful, moving and quietly memorable poems have not been reprinted since 1957, they have not reached the wider audience which they deserve.

    The growing appetite for his work was anticipated by Warren Hope, whose research for the 1985 American edition brought to light thirteen uncollected poems and some translations from Heine and the Czech poet Nezval. In this edition, the poems are followed by selections from his verse translation of Villon; all his miscellaneous verse translations (except those of Rimbaud, which are published by Anvil in a separate volume); and his juvenilia.

    Norman Cameron
    Norman Cameron (1905–1953) was a frequent contributor to Geoffrey Grigson’s New Verse . During the war he served with British forces in Austria, returning to London and advertising in 1947. His Collected Poems and Selected Translations edited by Warren Hope and Jonathan Barker was first published by Anvil in 1990. His ... read more
    Warren Hope
    Warren Hope was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, in 1944. He is the author of several books, including Adam’s Thoughts in Winter (2001), which includes a selection of poems from the years 1970 to 2000, and Moving In (2004). He is also the author of ( Norman Cameron: His Life, Work and ... read more
    Jonathan Barker
    Jonathan Barker has worked as Deputy Director of Literature for the British Council and Librarian of the Arts Council Poetry Library. He has contributed critical articles and reviews to a number of poetry journals and has edited bibliographies of contemporary poetry, poetry anthologies, an edition of the poems of W.H. Davies ... read more
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