Some years ago, when I was working in a tree-nursery, an ex-detective-inspector weeding alongside said he would like to give me some old magazines he had found in his attic. These turned out to be seven editions of Poetry London, from the early ‘40s, in mint condition. Never having heard of the magazine, I was intrigued by the name of the editor, Tambimuttu, captivated by the stunning covers (Henry Moore, Graham Sutherland,) and impressed by the quality of the poetry, which included early Raine, Dylan Thomas, Barker, and a Keith Douglas, and tended to the lyrical, sinewy, highly coloured stuff of that period, that was soon to be eclipsed (in terms of critical taste) by the Movement.
If this book is anything to go by, that unlikely introduction to Tambimuttu’s achievement conforms to the man himself: exotic in the Blitz years, increasingly sad and crumpled as his visions failed to materialise, this Tamil Hindu Catholic of Royal blood and distinguished kin, inventor of the term ‘Fitzrovia’, haunter of pubs in same, founder of poets and presses, believer in the total man and of poetry as ‘vitality ‘, comes across as quixotic, maddening, brilliant and impossible. This Festschrift includes some of his