This review is taken from Stand 227, 18(3) September - November 2020.

Jim Burns, Books Artists Beats (Penniless Press, 2019)
Michael Schmidt (ed.), New Poetries 7 (Carcanet, 2018)

Here are two fine anthologies – one prose, the other poetry – which in their different ways celebrate the act of remembering.

The indefatigable Jim Burns returns with his latest – tenth – collection of essay-reviews and, as a regular reader of his, I can do no more than echo an assertion quoted on the back of the book from John Lucas (who wrote in a ‘London Grip’ review of an earlier collection): ‘If there is anyone who knows more than Jim Burns about 20th-century small presses, journals, now-forgotten writers, artists and jazz musicians I have yet to meet them.’ As if in illustration, Books Artists Beats is made doubly valuable by the inclusion at the end of the list of contents of each previous book. The interested reader will have a field day.

The book ranges widely once again, so it is helpful to have Burns’ brief introduction to the interests of the collection: art in Paris from the 1890s; German political art of the 1920s/30s; painters of New York and St Ives; little magazines; the Beats; left-wing dissidents; Hollywood and HUAC; alcoholic writers; jazz and blues.

A majority of these pieces are informed ruminations by way of reviews of new books on a subject, a fact I tend to forget given Burns’ attractive, conversational style. His knowledge is as ever worn lightly – and with sufficient confidence for him to note from time to time that he learns with his ...
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