Roy Fisher and Language poetry

by Simon Collings

In 1999 the influential US critic Marjorie Perloff published an essay on Fisher’s long poem ‘The Cut Pages’, praising it and describing is as ‘unwittingly’ anticipating aspects of ‘Language poetry’. Fisher wrote the poem in 1970, at the end of four years of writer’s block.  Last year I was able to ask Roy Fisher some questions about the poem, and discovered a number of facts which Perloff would have been unaware of at the time she wrote her essay, and which led her to misread the poem in important ways. I believe she also underplayed the extent to which Fisher was consciously engaged, not just in ‘The Cut Pages’ but in other poems too,  in a writing practice which did indeed foreshadow Language poetry. The latest issue of the Journal of Poetics Research (issue 6), includes an article by me which both challenges and builds on Perloff’s discussion of Fisher’s work.