Roy Fisher Peter Porter - Essay

Peter Porter

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

Roy Fisher is a poet strongly bound to experiment and to certain avant-garde expectations. 'The Ship's Orchestra,' for instance, which is reprinted in 'Poems 1955–1980,' is a typical work of the 1960s. It is difficult, compacted and surreal; yet it has charm and many flashes of brilliant writing. It seems to me as natural a work as Henry Green's 'Party Going,' which it resembles slightly, but you cannot imagine anyone writing anything like it today, while you can readily enough with the Green novel.

Fisher sees things very sharply…. [He] is a fine jazz pianist and many of his poems borrow from jazz the technique of improvisation. This enables him to compose over considerable length: 'Wonders of Obligation,' for example, is a Coleridge-like soliloquy about death, surprise and survival, in which Fisher starts from a sight in wartime Birmingham, the mass graves dug for the dead expected after air raids….

'Poems 1955–1980' reprints all Fisher's past work other than the Burroughs-like cut ups he published in 'The Cut Pages.' I have not stressed sufficiently how witty and humane Fisher is. His is a 'Collected' to hang on to.

Peter Porter, "Laundromat Lyrics," in The Observer (reprinted by permission of The Observer Limited), November 22, 1981, p. 27.∗