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On the Thirteenth Stroke of Midnight
Surrealist Poetry in Britain
Edited by Michel Remy
Categories: 20th Century, Anthologies, British
Imprint: Carcanet Poetry
Publisher: Carcanet Press
Paperback (262 pages)
(Pub. Oct 2013)
For John Welson
by Conroy Maddox
The well-oiled engine of the lawn-mower
Rumbles desirously in a landscape enclosed by walls.
The sweet song of a pure voiced girl
Tells of obscenities, of money, of death without repose;
The teeth of a comb embedded in the brain emit so pleasing a sound
From the canvas arises a stench of half-decayed meat
Languorously inviting us to roll in it;
The pincers from a fairground machine
Pick over limbs with a disgusting meticulousness,
Steel scissors piercing the side gleam smooth to a caressing touch.
Neither set-square nor ruler are useful
When a liner dragged by a bicycle enters through a crack –
Under the jaundiced gaze of a giraffe, a flower blooms.
Written October 1978; published in Silvano Levy, Conroy Maddox: Surreal Enigmas (Keele: Keele University Press, 1995)
This book, the first published anthology of British surrealist poetry, takes its title from Herbert Read’s words when he opened the Surrealist Poems and Objects exhibition at the London Gallery at midnight on 24 November 1937. Within a few years the Second World War would effectively fragment the British surrealist movement, dispersing its key members and leaving the surrealist flame flickering only in isolated moments and places. Yet British surrealist writing was vibrant and, at its best, durable, and now takes its place in the wider European context of literary surrealism.
On the Thirteenth Stroke of Midnight includes work by Emmy Bridgwater, Jacques B. Brunius, Ithell Colquhoun, Hugh Sykes Davies, Toni del Renzio, Anthony Earnshaw, David Gascoyne, Humphrey Jennings, Sheila Legge, Len Lye, Conroy Maddox, Reuben Mednikoff, George Melly, E.L.T. Mesens, Desmond Morris, Grace Pailthorpe, Roland Penrose, Edith Rimmington, Roger Roughton, Simon Watson Taylor and John W. Welson. Many of the poems are published here for the first time. The book also reproduces key manifestos produced by the British surrealists, and includes illuminating introductory essays, a detailed chronology, biographical notes on the writers, and a bibliography. Illustrated throughout with drawings by Bridgwater, Colquhoun, Earnshaw, Maddox, Morris, Rimmington and Welson, this anthology is a fascinating record of a neglected strand of British poetry from the 1930s to the 1980s. British surrealist writing is at last given a chance to voice its subversion.
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