Roy Fisher The Times Literary Supplement - Essay

The Times Literary Supplement

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

Fisher is in many ways traditional, and like most good poets uses tradition for his own ends. He's deeply of the city, an imagist with a vein of childhood reminiscence. The Ship's Orchestra was an intermittently fascinating and boring book, a sort of avant-garde Pinfold or Party Going, gaining from the richness of its fantasies and losing with their pointlessness. Most of the poems in [Collected Poems 1968] predate The Ship's Orchestra and do not share its extremism. The longest section, called "City", alternates poetry and prose, and celebrates the self-help and cooperation of those Midlands conurbations that Fisher has always lived in. He usually looks for mystery in these house and street scenes but he neither solicits it nor fakes it…. While the minutiae of life are justly observed, the total effect is turned aside into mild surrealism—the wind is thought to come only from the next street, gun barrels rolled in lint are under the floorboards, a foetus in the dustbin moves a claw. This is Birmingham as Magritte might have seen it. Fisher's chief fault is a refusal to permit himself the vulgarity of a plain line of development. He insists on the tenuous greyness of reality and will only colour it with fantasy. His poems are all seeing, but he sees with originality and style.

"Midland Fantasy," in The Times Literary Supplement (© Times Newspapers Ltd. (London) 1969; reproduced from The Times Literary Supplement by permission), No. 3517, July 24, 1969, p. 828.∗