Robert Conquest’s considerable reputation rests largely on his works of political history, and in particular on his comprehensive anatomization of the magnitude of the Stalinist purges in his book The Great Terror (1968). But more than a decade before this spectacular act of political unmasking appeared, he had been known, in Britain at least, as a quite different kind of writer: as a poet, an anthologist, and a proselytizer for the poetry of “The Movement.” As Conquest himself observed, what united the Movement poets was more what they didn’t like about much recent and contemporary poetry (inflated rhetoric, surrealist effects, vatic pronouncements, verbal flailing, and sprawl) than what they wished to promote. In one of his last books of verse (Penultimata, published in 2009), Conquest wrote of the perhaps archetypal Movement poet, Philip Larkin, that he had “a mind...

 

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