Here are some long articles which I wrote in the 1980s and 1990s, which I believe have survived quite well. They are divided into two categories, Poetry and Cultural Diversity, two subjects and themes which interested me a lot at the time. They are all reproduced here in full.
1. ARTICLES ON POETS AND POETRY
In the first, commissioned by a well-known New Zealand literary journal, the Pacific Moana Quarterly and published at the beginning of 1981 in a Special Issue devoted to contemporary British writing, intended to keep readers in distant New Zealand in touch with what was happening - in the days before Internet. I wrote a brief survey of what was going on in the world of poetry, and interviewed several poetry editors and publishers.
Tasked with suggesting who to watch, I chose three names which have been pretty much vindicated: the first was Ted Hughes, already consider a major poet, then the austere and wonderful Geoffrey Hill, the third was Seamus Heaney (who slipped in on the basis of his language, even though he was Irish), idem, and the fourth, George Macbeth, who while not achieving the renown of the previous two seems to me nonetheless under-rated. I believe the article bears reading nearly forty years later.
While George MacBeth is now largely forgotten, Seamus Heaney went on to win the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1995, and Geoffrey Hill - who died in the summer of 2016 - was held by many critics and readers to be the greatest living English poet. For me, many years later, he remains the most extraordinary reader of poetry I have ever heard.
The second was in a sense a consequence of the first, because after writing that article I spent a few months reading novels, poems and plays from New Zealand. The single work which most impressed me was Allen Curnow's sequence about the assassination by Red Brigade terrorists of the great Italian Christian Democrat politician and ex-Prime Minister, Aldo Moro.
I was in Tehran when Moro was kidnapped in March 1978 by the Brigate Rosse, and his entire group of five bodyguards murdered. But I knew the street, Via Fani, and although not a Christian Democrat sympathiser was in awe of the gifts of such a subtle and intelligent man, who had engineered the “compromesso storico” (historic compromise) between his own party and the Italian Communist Party (PCI). Which former student of mathematical philosophy could not be impressed by the genuinely original concept of “paralleli convergenti” (converging parallels)?
I followed the twists and turns of threats and interrogations from a distance thanks to the Roman newspaper Il Messaggero, which could be bought in the Hilton near my home in Shemiran, in the north of the city, and then in the summer went to visit the sit where his body had been found in Via Caetani, symbolically withina few minutes’ walk of the DC’s headquarters in Piazza del Gesù.
Curfew had been in Venice at the same time, and ha also read about it in the newspapers - though not according to his account Il Messaggero. When a friend sent me a copy of the book An Incorrigible Music, in which the sequence of nine poems appeared under the title ‘Moro Assassinato', I was impressed. Most interesting was the way Curnow linked it to the savage killing, sacrifice and blood of early New Zealand history. Hence the article, which was published in New Zealand's best-known (and still thriving) literary magazine, Landfall, in issue No. 153.
There was talk of an anthology of criticism, and of my meeting Curnow, but that never happened. But I did have the good fortune to meet his friend the great New Zealand playwright Bruce Mason on what was - alas - a farewell trip taken to Europe with his wife since he knew that he was being consumed by cancer. It was a memorable evening, as he wrote in a dedication of his most famous play, The Pohutukawa Tree. He encouraged me to go to meet Curnow, and offered to facilitate the meeting, but for one reason and it never came to pass. But I still believe ‘Moro Assassinato' is an excellent poetic sequence and deserves to be better known. Curnow himself died in 2001 at the age of ninety.
The third is perhaps an oddity. As a result for a youthful enthusiasm for the Rubaiyat of Omar Khayaam I knew something about Edward Fitzgerald. In Tehran we often discussed him, and I even when to Nishapur to see the place where he had bee born. I admired a marvellous book by Ali Dashti (In Search of Omar Khayyam, London: George Allen & Unwin, 1971) and had read lots of versions. Then one day, again in Charing Cross Road I had acquired the three-volume Letters and Literary Remains of Edward Fitzgerald (Macmillan, 1889) on a whim. The first volume contains a marvellous selection of letters to interesting correspondent friends like Tennyson, Thackeray, Carlyle and George Crabbe, with whom he managed to maintain profound friendships whilst rarely travelling from his Suffolk home, while the third volume re-prints the very different first edition of the Rubáiyát. In the second volume, before his translation of Attar’s Bird Parliament, were his translations of six plays from the 17th century Spanish dramatist Pedro Calderón de la Barca, whom I have never read but then did. Thus it seemed natural that when the organiser of an international conference on Calderón, the Jesuit, scholar and Professor of Spanish at the University of L’Aquila, Giuseppe de Gennaro, insisted that I should speak there, and that Fitzgerald’s translation of one of Calderón’s plays could be a suitable topic – mainly to illustrate the problems of what Fitzgerald himself called the “bombast” of Spanish passion for English ears. I chose the best-known of the plays translated by Fitzgerald, The Mayor of Zalamea, and acquired a critical edition of the Spanish text, El Alcade de Zalamea (Madrid, Ediciones Cátedra, 1980).
The fourth given here was a short piece commissioned by Gale Research Company, publisher of the American multi-volume Dictionary of Literary Biography, also as a consequence of the Pacific Moana Quarterly article. It was a short biographical note on the British poet David Harsent.
In the late 1960s and 1970s Harsent was an important member of the group of poets associated with the literary magazine Review, edited by Ian Hamilton. He achieved early success and critical recognition with Tonight's Lover (1968) and Violent Country (1969), and was considered to be one of the most promising of the young poets in Britain. The technical excellence of his poems derived from a finely honed poetic credo, which was expressed in a Review symposium on ‘The State of Poetry’ in 1972. After praising Robert Lowell and Sylvia Plath, whose work was in vogue at that time, he went on to assert that “they have demonstrated, more than anyone, that lyricism still equals power and that craftsmanship is what comes first in making a good poem.” It was precisely this concern for craftsmanship which characterised his early poetry, some of which is very powerful.
The article is given without revision or updating. Since it was written, Harsent has published sixteen further books of poems and translations, several thrillers written under pseudonyms, and numerous screenplays for well-known television series.
2. ARTICLES ON CULTURAL DIVERSITY
In the 1980s and 1990s the problem of cultural diversity what an urgent one. The privatisation of major industries such as telecommunications lead International mergers, acquisitions and what we now speak of as globalisation. Suddenly, senior managers had to deal with issues that had never seemed important before, relatively simple ones like how to work together in multicultural groups. There were books, like the famous empirical study of by Geert Hofstede (first published in 1980, but made famous in an edited and updated version as Cultures and Organizations, 1991), which everybody referred to, but which provided little practical direction. It was for this reason that the European telcos setup an informal corporate training program called your team, on which I became involved with two important programs, one called cultural diversity, and the other working across cultures. These are discussed in the pages on the website under Speaking.
One of the consequences was a series of articles of which two are reproduced here.
The first one is a transcript of the speech in English given in Pisa during the conference with the title a new approach to world security. It discussed issues arising from then still fairly new and very current work on the clash of civilisations by Samuel P. Huntington (first published as an article in Foreign Affairs 72 in 1993, and then as an expanded version in book form in 1996, as The Clash of Civilisations and the Remaking of World Order. It was published in a volume with all the speeches and essays from the conference as Nuove Prospettive per la Sicurezza Mondiale? (officially translated as 'A New Approach to World Security?')
One of the extraordinary things in the 1990s was how this need for understanding and new directions permeated so many separate spheres: the academic sphere, as above; the MBA sphere, as in my module on ‘Doing Business in Europe’ at what was then called Canterbury Business School; in the military sphere at the Staff College of the Italian Navy, first in Livorno and then in Venice, as they prepared for joint European activities; and in the business sphere in lectures at Henley Management College, and in the telecommunications sector.
In fact the second one was published (in Italian) in the Journal of the corporate training college of Telecom Italia and asked the question whether the concept of a European manager is a useful one. In particular it advocated the development of new paradigms specifically adapted to the context of European business - and, given the audience for this article, within the context of the telecommunications business. Although social media as we understand it today had yet to be developed, there was a discussion of online forums and “buddy lists” which created “experience communities” and transcended the concept of a national market when applied to online commerce. Language, cultural identity, the relative “weight” of a culture - i.e. between a small country like Portugal, a large one like Germany, and a historically dominating one like that of the Anglo-Saxon world - were considered in the context of multi-cultural enterprises.