Sunday, October 17, 2010

Anthony Rudolf – UK poet with a cricket interest

My friend poet/translator Anthony Rudolf recently released a new book of his poetry. It has occupied my mental life for most of the past week. This is Anthony’s first new book of poetry for over 30 years and is something to celebrate though he has collaborated with visual artists in between. Zigzag released by Northern House/Carcanet in England is a slim but very substantial collection of his poetry/prose sequences. The book includes a noteworthy sequence about his grandfather Josef Rudolf.
The sequence, ‘Josef Rudolf, my Zeida’, owes something to American poet Charles Reznikoff’s two powerful books Holocaust and Testimony and covers autobiographical territory relating to his grandfather’s life. Written in the colloquial tone of his grandfather, it conveys with insight and detachment his grandfather’s life as a Jew. Anthony includes himself in the poem as “AR” interjecting and making comments in italics throughout the poem like a film documentary.
Elsewhere Rudolf returns to his Jewish childhood in London (after Schumann’s piano suite Kinderszenen, Scenes from Childhood). The unpublished sequence ‘Zigzag’ written while Rudolf was teaching autobiography at Metropolitan University in London is compulsory reading for anyone studying biography/autobiography with all its zigs and zags. The book concludes with a minimalist sequence ‘Mandorla’, while the opening prose sequence ‘Kafka’s Doll’ uses its conventions of children's stories for adults. Overall, a very rewarding and engrossing read. Rudolf's Zigzag is available online from Amazon UK among other places.
Rudolf was a friend of Ted Hughes. Hughes's critical comment features on the back of the book: “Every poem like a new geometry – of surprises… A sort of sewing of a hyper-active intelligence to hypersensitive skin…” Anthony published Sylvia Plath’s translations of the French poet Ronsard written while she was at Cambridge University through his Menard Press in London. Rudolf is himself best known as a translator, including translating French verse by Yves Bonnefoy and Claude Vigée.
Anthony tells me he has played and also has an interest in cricket. He has met England great Jack Hobbs and played with and against Mike Brearley in school days. There is one reference to the unfortunately named cricketer Jack Crapp in Rudolf’s sequence about his grandfather, mentioning an Austro-Hungarian cavalry rider:

AR: What was his name?

Zeida cackled.
You potz
(Yiddish word for prick, literally and metaphorically, in English)
Yankel Kakka, that was his name.
Yankel Kakka
(Jack Crapp – the name of a Gloucestershire and England cricketer in the forties and fifties – is an accurate and perfect translation of the name)

(‘Josef Rudolf, my Zeida’, p. 22.)

Jack Crapp (1912-81) was a sound left-hand batsman for Gloucestershire. He amassed 23, 615 runs in First Class matches at an average of 35.03. He played seven Tests for England with a top score of 56.
Thanks Anthony for passing on your cricket interest. Anthony says he may write up his own cricket stories some time in the future.

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