Collected Poems 1950-1993
In 2002 Vernon Scannell wrote the following: ‘It has been my firm belief since I first began to attempt the art of poetry that the making of a poem should be, as Yeats asserted, a difficult business. However, I have always felt reservations about what seems to me the only partially true belief, stated by both Eliot and Hopkins in their different ways, that the meaning of a poem is of less significance than its structure and texture, Eliot’s ‘nice bit of meat for the house-dog.’ Ideally the poem should be the perfection of expression of meaning inseparable from the methods by which that expression is achieved. As Paul Valéry has said, ‘A man is a poet if the difficulties inherent in his art provide him with ideas; he is not a poet if they deprive him if ideas.’
That was an important statement, his credo. It can accurately be said that almost every poem in this collected volume bears testimony to it. Although not covering the full span of his career - Scannell didn’t die until 2007 and was writing almost literally until the very end - the body of his work is here and how impressive it is. On immaculate display is a conspectus of poems embracing the narrative, lyrical, satirical and contemplative. There are poems of pathos and comedy, intelligence and passion: whatever their form, free verse or rhyming, tenor or subject, they are executed with unfailing craftsmanship.
In his obituary of Vernon Scannell, Alan Brownjohn wrote, ‘What might have been considered unusual given a colourful, even swashbuckling, personality that spawned innumerable anecdotes, was his fastidious procedure as a poet, his unflinching focus on the age-old themes of love, war and death, his concern for 'a real involvement with living experience'. Craft and care, and for that matter clarity and accessibility, were unquestionable necessities if you were serious about the art; students on Scannell’s creative writing courses were liable to be sat down, hangover or not, to write a sonnet after breakfast.'
‘Scannell is one of what appears to be a vanishing breed, a poet of technical accomplishment who understands that poetry, like the other arts, is a craft as well.’ Charles Osborne, Sunday Telegraph
Alan Brownjohn on Vernon Scannell:
'Vernon Scannell’s is a poetry that joyfully inhabits an immediately recognisable modern world. Childhood, growing up, falling in love, witnessing courage and suffering as a serviceman during World War Two are all vividly rendered by a poet who never lacks for formal skill and resourcefulness. As a love poet he is amazingly tender and truthful, although he believes that love has given him more pain than anything he experienced in his early life as a professional boxer.'
Anthony Thwaite on Scannell's Collected Poems :
‘These poems are colloquial, eloquent, direct, the compassionate and often witty expression of a poet whose work was firmly rooted in recognisable human experience.’
More on Vernon Scannell at the Poetry Archive .
Sub-categories: Poetry Collections
Genres & Themes: Faber Finds
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