D.J. Enright

D.J. Enright taught English for thirty years in universities across Asia. Collected Poems 1948-98 appeared four years before his death in 2002. He also published fiction, two volumes of memoir and edited several anthologies, including The Oxford Book of Death.

How to Kowtow: The thoughts of China

D.J. Enright, 29 July 1999

‘One aspect of a country’s greatness is surely its capacity to attract and retain the attention of others. This capacity has been evident from the very beginnings of the West’s encounter with China; the passing centuries have never managed to obliterate it altogether, even though vagaries of fashion and shifting political stances have at times dulled the sheen.’ In The Chan’s Great Continent Jonathan Spence reflects on 48 ‘sightings’ or mis-sightings of ‘a great but distant culture’, stretching from the 13th century up to the Seventies.‘

The German Ocean: Suffolk Blues

D.J. Enright, 17 September 1998

Change and decay in all around we see. As one of W.G. Sebald’s epigraphs points out, the rings of Saturn are probably fragments of a moon, broken up by tidal effect when its orbit decayed.

Pychoanalysis, says John Kerr, is ‘in a period of institutional decline’: ‘Candidacies are down, patients are harder to come by’ and other therapeutic disciplines are clamouring for attention. The seeds of this sorry situation were sown during the six-year partnership between Freud and Jung, when ‘historical accuracy first came to be less important than ideological correctness.’ (Later it is the termination of the partnership that is held responsible.) Kerr’s book is written ‘in the hope that it will significantly improve the prospects for psychoanalysis, now murkily hopeful at best’. A pious hope, but a misguided one. What chance does this archaic blend of science and art have at a time when anything goes, when every detail of sexual behaviour is laid bare? Psychoanalysis did a lot to make sex fashionable, turning Lawrence’s ‘dirty little secret’ into grand opera; and now sex is growing tedious. A strong dose, if not of repression then of reticence, seems to be in order.

Though he had little Latin He seemed to like his title I named him Incitatus Meaning to run swiftly But also to excite, to incite Or so to speak spur on Me they dubbed Baby-Boots I gave him iron ones He was born in a tailored toga I hoped he would spur on the others So I made him a consul There’s a Pole called ‘I think’ who thought He performed his duties perfectly...

The Land of Serendipity

D.J. Enright, 23 September 1993

It was a different country that Gamini Salgado was born in: Ceylon, not unhappy Sri Lanka. The first chapter of these childhood memories tells of the hawkers who took turns outside the railway station: the dealer in pills for constipation, the palmist with his dogeared charts, the itinerant vendor of story books (‘he had a lovely high chanting voice, dreamy and faraway like a girl’s’), and best of all the snake-bite man, who appeared every Friday. His allure lay not in the pellets he was selling or in his dirty jokes, but in his cobra, ‘the most beautiful creature in the world’ and the boy’s first love, with ‘a gorgeous hood as large and bright as a lotus, with a beautiful brown ripple along the outside and a needle-bright flicker of tongue at the centre’. One day the cobra was gone, casting off her unworthy bedraggled master, but the boy dreamt of holding her in both his hands, ‘all the secret power of the universe coiled within that splendid shining body’.

Omdamniverous: D.J. Enright

Ian Sansom, 25 September 2003

This is the end of something – although of what exactly it’s not quite clear. The death of D.J. Enright, in December 2002, makes one ask some serious questions about poets and about...

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Ever so comfy

James Wood, 24 March 1994

Every handful of John Updike’s silver has its square coin, its bad penny, its fake. This exquisitely careful writer tends to relax into flamboyance: it is the verbal equivalent of...

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English Proust

Christopher Prendergast, 8 July 1993

Much or the last volume of Proust’s novel is devoted to life in Paris during the First World War. Proust, the least chauvinistic of writers, is nevertheless so moved by patriotic sentiment...

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Christ’s Teeth

C.K. Stead, 10 October 1991

‘Dates, dates are of the essence; and it will be found that I date quite exactly the breakdown of the imaginative exploit of the Cantos: between the completion of the late sequence called...

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John Bayley, 23 May 1991

Do we have ‘friends’, or do we just know various people? There is something a bit sticky and self-conscious about the idea of friendship. Anyone can be in love and proud of it, but to...

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Puck’s Dream

Mark Ford, 14 June 1990

D.J. Enright recently celebrated his 70th birthday. In commemoration, Oxford University Press have prepared a rather lean Selected Poems, and a volume of personal reminiscences and critical...

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At war

Iain McGilchrist, 25 January 1990

‘What, into this?’ It is the essential incongruity they capture which makes the words of Haile Selasse, Emperor of Ethiopia, Lion of Judah, as he was unceremoniously bundled by the...

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Lyrics and Ironies

Christopher Ricks, 4 December 1986

Faintly repelled by elaborate theories of irony and by taxonomies of it, D.J. Enright has set himself to muster instances, observations, localities and anecdotes. There is no continuing argument,...

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Ten Poets

Denis Donoghue, 7 November 1985

One of Donald Davie’s early poems, and one of his strongest, is ‘Pushkin: A Didactic Poem’, from Brides of Reason (1955). As in Davie’s ‘Dream Forest’, Pushkin...

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Who whom?

Christopher Ricks, 6 June 1985

Trust a Director of Freshman Rhetoric to say that ‘the study of language is inherently interesting.’ He would, wouldn’t he? He trusts so. This big batch of language-books brings...

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As I begin to write this, innumerable other reviews are being born. Some are being word-processed in paper-free offices, others handwritten in the Club lounges of intercontinental jets and others...

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For the duration

John McManners, 16 June 1983

I must begin by declaring an interest. I am quoted twice in The Oxford Book of Death. This gives me a sort of literary immortality, like the poets I had to read – or, on occasion, copy for...

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Hearing about Damnation

Donald Davie, 3 December 1981

This volume represents more than forty years work by one of the most earnestly devoted and intelligent of our poets. Accordingly it must be considered deliberately, and at some length....

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It seemed to be happening only yesterday, but Blake Morrison was born in 1950, and for him the Movement is something you have to work on in a library. So it suddenly comes to seem rather remote,...

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A Martian School of two or more

James Fenton, 6 December 1979

Craig Raine’s second collection follows swiftly upon his first, The Onion, Memory (1978). It is as if the poet had been waiting impatiently over us, while we picked ourselves up off the...

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