The June 19 LRB, on page 20, had a box entitled “Two Poems by Jean Sprackland.” The first, “The Source,” begins:

Want to learn the source,
the cool under the surface fire?
Watch the heron:
he snatches the silver voice
from the throat of the river
and swallows it live.

The second is called “In the Afternoon” and begins:

The devil likes the chicken coop.
He lies on a bed of straw
Watching the snow fall.
The hens fetch him eggs to suck,
But he’s not in the mood.
Cotton Mather is coming tonight,
Bringing a young witch.

You might want to do a quick mental compare-and-contrast before diving below the cut.

OK, here’s the kicker: in the July 3 issue, they published this highly embarrassing item:

In the LRB of 19 June we published two poems, ‘The Source’ and ‘In the Afternoon’, which we attributed to Jean Sprackland. She is indeed the author of ‘The Source’, but the author of ‘In the Afternoon’ is Charles Simic. We would like to apologise to both of them.

I wonder if anyone not previously familiar with the Simic poem read it and thought “That doesn’t sound like Sprackland“?


  1. John Emerson says

    “How could anyone think that that a poem like that was mine?” said she. “How could anyone think that someone like her could write that good a poem?” said he.

  2. June 19.

  3. Whoops, quite right! Thanks, I’ll fix it.

  4. Sort of an inverse Joyce Hatto situation (w/o the fraud, of course).

  5. A. J. P. Taylor says

    this highly embarrassing item
    Don’t be too hard on the LRB. The issue you link ‘LRB’ to has a really great article, by Tim Clarke, on Matisse, that the LH Proust lovers might like to read.

  6. The LRB you linked to had an article about a Brit who murdered his wife. There’s some fascinating stuff about his accent: At 18 or 19, most university students modulate their voices to fit in with their new surroundings (Tony Blair learned to talk in Estuary when he was deep into his forties). Yet Entwistle, an instinctive mimic in every other aspect of life, an internet chameleon, an earnest social climber, had not managed to retrieve a single missing aitch or shorten one long northern vowel. There was no trace in his voice of the years of clubhouse time spent in the company of ‘those public school $%^&’s’. In anyone else, one might assume stubborn defiance in this attachment to the sound of home, but Entwistle was a born pleaser and adapter, and his failure to change his accent weighed heavily with him.

  7. Oops. Stray punctuation mark in my comment!

  8. Don’t be too hard on the LRB.
    Oh, I love the LRB—I’ve come to prefer it even to the NYRB. But come on, that’s embarrassing. I’m not being superior; lord knows I’ve done embarrassing things in my life. And good for them for acknowledging it and apologizing publicly.
    Oops. Stray punctuation mark in my comment!
    Fixed, thanks to my magical editing powers.

  9. A. J. P. Crown says

    Yes, I love it even though there is sometimes too much politics and not enough books. I hate to digress in case I fail Prof. Liberman’s class, but I must say I found Jonathan Raban’s sneering article to be without any compassion — which makes it all the more feeble when he throws up his arms and says Entwhistle’s actions just can’t be understood.

  10. “I’m not being superior”
    That one thrown in for me, was it? These hairs seem to be getting finer and finer…

  11. Uh, no, actually not. It was an honest remark in answer to AJP.

  12. Crown, A. J. P. says

    Thanks, but I never thought you were being superior. I’ve just been looking at Conrad’s very interesting articles about London architecture. I can’t imagine anything worse than having had to live in Cricklewood, but I expect it’s changed since I lived in London.

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