praised Burgess’s imagery and linguistic innovation, but found his rhythm a little shaky. The short note is (so far) the only available review of Burgess’s earlier poetry by an informed contemporary critic, who found:
These are very accomplished poems indeed, and I suspect you are an old hand at the game. Have you published? If you haven’t, then you ought to, immediately. I find your imagery particularly exacting – e.g. in Sonnet 1. The image of the cock is brilliant. The ‘idea’ in Sonnet 1 is simple enough, but your language has given it a depth (almost a mystery) which is most satisfying. You might look over your rhythm again – it is occasionally jerky – noticeably so in Sonnet 2 where the transition from line 8 to 9 is rhythmically awkward. Congratulations on two first rate poems which easily take the prize. The critical note is signed ‘G.L.E.’. The two sonnets in question were ‘A dream yes, but for everyone the same’ and ‘They lit the sun, and their day began’, part of the Revolutionary Sonnets sequence. Writing about this competition, Burgess notes that the newspaper regretted having to publish his poems. ‘What the readers of the Banbury Guardian made of this sonnet’, he says, ‘was never recorded’.1
Another analysis of a Burgess poem came from the poet himself in the 1970s. Perhaps as a literary joke, Burgess reviewed a poem by F.X. Enderby in They Wrote in English, an anthology of major Western writers.2 That poem is ‘Garrison Town, Evening’ (see p. 00). As the only available example of Burgess explicating his own poetry at length, it is worth reproducing here:
The opening line is a reminiscence of the opening line of a song by Henry Purcell – ‘Nymphs and shepherds, come away.’ The scene is a
1 Little Wilson and Big God (London: Heinemann, 1987), p. 356. 2 They Wrote in English (Milan: Tramontana, 1979), vol. 2, p. 553.