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A Book of Chinese Whispers: Selected Poems

A Book of Chinese Whispers: Selected Poems

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Ken Smith (1938-2003) was a major voice in world poetry, his work and example inspiring a whole generation of younger British poets. He collected his early prose writings in A Book of Chinese Whispers (1987), and his poetry from four decades in two volumes, The Poet Reclining: Selected Poems 1962-1980 (1982) and Shed: Poems 1980-2001 (2002). His later work was included in the posthumous You Again (2004).

If you like his poems, you'll love his prose: extraordinary fictions, fables, ill-tempered jokes and (wait for it!) existential romances. Smith writes in the radical European/American (and most un-English) tradition of Borges, Brautigan, Burroughs and Buster Keaton.

As in the game of Chinese Whispers, messages are passed, repeated, misheard, misremembered, deliberately tampered with, fiddled in the interest of politics, commerce and the pursuit of power. Even the language is suspect. So are our perceptions. The book is illustrated with mysterious pictures of sub-reality.

"Ken Smith was a great poetÖ His last retrospective collection, Shed, confirmed the immense power of his poetry."
Jon Glover, Guardian

"Smith's writing exists in permanent disagreement with English fashion. A huge cast of overheard characters, wanderers, losers and remembrancers passes through his writing, bound by a common sense of loss and endurance."
Sean O'Brien, Sunday Times

"His poems are squeezed out from under the unrelenting pressures of history, politics and the natural elementsÖ some of his poems read like translations from war-ravaged Eastern Europe."
Charles Boyle, The London Magazine

"Ken Smith brought an original and memorable voice to poetry in Britain. He spent his writing life not so much swimming against the tide as ignoring the stream's existenceÖ He was one of those by whom the language lives."
Sean O'Brien, Independent