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Introduction

This is our sixth OxfordPoets Anthology. Our policy hasn’t changed: we look out for the best in what comes our way and that best is, as before, characterised by truth to real circumstances (the world we live in now) and a great variety of forms, strategies, perspectives and voices for getting that reality tellingly across. There are fewer poets than in the last volume (2007) but among them an equal, or even larger, geographical range. The ‘places’ of poetry – its local habitations – are well represented here and, just as important, so are its topoi, its commonplaces. For the stuff of poetry is common – common and particular. Treating the commonplace particularly, keeping your eye on it, doing it justice, is the surest way to the figurative, to the generalising, to the making of a poetry by which people in other times and places recognise and enhance their own experience. Pippa Little writes ‘I want to make and leave some kind of a mark in this world’s surfaces, to say this is how it was for me’. Saying what it is like, here and now, in his or her own real experience, is the poet’s primary responsibility – the wider virtue of poetry comes out of that.

Again we invited contributors to say what poetry entails for them, and they did so, with more or less particular reference to the poems chosen, and always illuminatingly. So this is also an anthology of reflections on poetry in which any reader will discover considerable common ground. Together they are their own introduction to all the poems, not just the writer’s own. It is instructive to look at one poet’s work in the light of another’s profession of faith and practice. This is an anthology of poems and a symposium of various voices on a common passion.

In their poems and in their brief prologues Jim Carruth and Philip Hancock both declare a loyalty to a home locality. Such loyalties may be fierce, angry, partisan (there is good reason) and often also, true to the times, elegiac. Much has gone missing, much is lost for ever. But all elegy celebrates, even as it laments; and the great virtue of poetry, its power to work, comes in the further translation of particular circumstances into the figurative. So those past places and deeds of one person’s childhood, made into a poem, may carry a charge of energy into a distant elsewhere, years hence,

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