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Ruth Padel’s Emerald – review

Ruth Padel, Emerald, 80 pp, £10, Chatto & Windus, 20 Vauxhall Bridge Rd, Westminster, London SW1V 2SA

In Emerald, emotional intensity flowers out of artistic restraint and its carefully measured statements achieve wide resonance. The book brings together poems prompted by the death of the poet’s mother and poems about the cutting and mining of emeralds or more generally about greenness. Grief and loss lie alongside beauty and hope, mundane experience is juxtaposed with travel, history, scientific analysis, fairytale and myth. Modes of discourse shift accordingly, though it hardly ever feels as though contrast between modes is the point. The shifts … Continue Reading

Ruth Padel, “Salon Noir”

This is a remarkable poem. You can link to an earlier version of its text than the one in Emerald by following this link to the praccrit.com website, where there’s also an interview with Padel.

The poem opens “When we went down into the cave / this summer”. I’ve had a nagging sense of something oracular and dramatic lurking behind those breathless rhythms and it suddenly hit me what it was – the opening of Ezra Pound’s Canto I:

And then went down to the ship,
Set keel to breakers, forth on the godly sea, and
We set up mast and … Continue Reading

Ruth Padel “The Emerald Tablet” – 2

Other things have kept me from following through on my last piece on “The Emerald Tablet”. Here’s a brief note on the stanza I quoted to illustrate the force of the sudden use of strong rhyme:


                                   what is inward
……buried in earth       in flesh       and in your mind
is also the bright surface of the world outside
……and is divine.


Perhaps it’s a confession of superficiality to say so but my keenest pleasure here may be of an almost purely sensuous kind. I partly get it from the fluent beauty and decisiveness of the sound, or rather from the sudden … Continue Reading

Ruth Padel, “The Emerald Tablet”

You can link to Ruth Padel’s “The Emerald Tablet”  by clicking here.  The whole poem seems to me remarkably rich and beautiful but for the moment I just want to say a few things about the technical skill of the writing in the opening stanzas (down to “divine”).

One of the things this involves is a peculiar interplay between firmness and tentativeness in rhyme, rhythm and syntax.

Syntax first. These first two sentences are quite long and complex in structure. The only punctuation, apart from full stops and capital letters, is the white space at the end of lines and dividing … Continue Reading