Joined: 25 May 2002
Location: Oxford, England
|Posted: Sun Jan 12, 2003 4:47 pm Post subject: DJ Enright Obituary
|Readers of Graves might note that DJ Enright has passed away recently. Enright was a profoundly important poet and critic who considered Graves an influence on his work.
D.J. Enright, Poet and Novelist, Dies at 82
By PAUL LEWIS
D. J. Enright, a British poet, novelist and critic whose ironic, self-deprecatory, minimalist verse was admired by writers but never won much of a public following, died last Tuesday in London. He was 82.
As a poet, Mr. Enright adopted an astringent tone laced with irony. His verses seldom rhymed, and the ordinariness of his language seemed to mirror the everyday things that often inspired his poems.
He typically described himself in Who's Who as a freelance writer.
Reflecting on his impoverished boyhood in genteel Royal Leamington Spa, he wrote:
We had to keep our coal out at the back;
They wouldn't give us a bath.
He was sharply aware of poverty and sickness, especially in the Far East, where he spent much of his working life teaching English literature at universities. In the poem "A Polished Performance," he spoke of searching for an innocent and unspoiled Asian girl:
Perfect for the part, perfect
Except for the dropsy
Which comes from polished rice.
Mr. Enright's spartan language, his taste for understatement and his distrust of the exotic meant that he was often associated with the Movement, a school of British poets writing in the 1950's and 60's who self-consciously rebelled against the extravagant language of writers like Dylan Thomas and the early W. H. Auden. Instead they favored a poetry based on the cadences of everyday speech and inspired by the events of ordinary life.
Dennis Joseph Enright was born on March 11, 1920, and won a scholarship to Downing College at Cambridge University, where he fell under the influence of the literary scholar F. R. Leavis.
Unable to find a teaching job at a British university, for which he held his Leavisite credentials to blame, he began his career at what was then called Farouk I University in Alexandria, Egypt, in 1947.
He earned his doctorate there with a thesis on Goethe, which he defended in French before a panel of Egyptian professors.
After a stint in England at Birmingham University, he taught at Konan University in Kobe, Japan, from 1953 to 1956.
He then spent a year at the Free University in West Berlin before moving to Chulalongkorn University in Thailand, where he was briefly incarcerated for striking a policeman who had left a car in his driveway while visiting a brothel.
In 1960 he went to the University of Singapore, where he incurred the wrath of the authorities in that strictly disciplined country with an inaugural lecture on the writer Robert Graves in which he called for greater cultural freedom, saying all art begins "in the foul rag and bone shop of the heart."
He remained there until 1970, though with few illusions about autocratic Far Eastern society.
In one poem he wrote:
Run over by a car? Beg
Before you are charged
Returning to Britain, he helped edit the intellectual and literary magazine Encounter from 1970 to 1972.
The magazine, it turned out, was financed by the C.I.A. as part of its cold war drive against the spread of Communist ideas.
Mr. Enright published more than 20 books of poetry; three children's books; four novels; an autobiography, "Memoirs of a Mendicant Professor" (Chatto & Windus, 1969); and many volumes of critical essays.
He is survived by his wife, the former Madeleine Harders, and their daughter, Dominique.