POUND, YEATS, REMORSE – Pound’s Canto CXVI and Yeats’ “Man and the Echo”.

I’ve been dipping into Ezra Pound again, moving from the Selected Poems edited and introduced by Eliot, which I devoured as a sixth former in the late sixties to the very useful New Selected Poems and Translations edited by Richard Sieburth. The selection from The Cantos in the latter brought me to Canto CXVI, which excited me enormously in the early seventies. I seem to remember seeing it cited as showing that Pound finally “got it” in the sense of feeling remorse at his role as Mussolini’s propagandist in the Second World War. I’m not sure about that, at least … Continue Reading

Review – Imtiaz Dharker, Luck Is the Hook

128 pp, £12.00, Bloodaxe Books Ltd, Eastburn, South Park, Hexham, Northumberland NE46 1BS

In Dharker’s last collection, Over the Moon, nearly all the poems were very specifically rooted in time and place. That concrete grounding gave them a great deal of their power. Luck Is the Hook works in a different way, making it both a departure from and a complement to the previous volume.

It’s essentially lyrical, concentrating on exploring emotions in themselves rather than their causes. One result is a smoother, more musical style. Another is the flowering of a mythical or fabulous mode. Over the Moon was dominated by … Continue Reading

Review – Eugenio Montale, Xenia, transl. Mario Petrucci

Eugenio Montale, transl. Mario Petrucci, Xenia, Bilingual Italian / English, 84 pp, £9.99, Arc Publications

Twenty-eight poems, some only two or three lines long, addressed to his dead wife by a poet in his late sixties and early seventies; Montale’s Xenia makes an approachable and moving introduction to this great but difficult poet. The Italian originals are beautifully presented in this book from Arc, though notes would have been helpful.

My feelings about Petrucci’s versions are ambivalent.  He presents the first poem like this:

Dear little insect
they called – I don’t know why – fly,
this evening on the brink of dark
while … Continue Reading

Review – D. M. Black, The Arrow Maker

88pp, £9.99, Arc Publications, Nanholme Mill, Shaw Wood Road, Todmorden OL14 6DA

The idea of love is at the core of The Arrow Maker. Different poems present examples of it in very different senses – love of community or children, kindness to strangers, care for the environment, concern for the suffering. Diverse as these takes on love may seem, we’re encouraged to think about the relationship between them by others that express the idea in more general terms: “St Francis in Winter”, “The Buddha Amit?bha”, and three translations from Dante. Black’s tone is far from didactic, though. His whole approach is … Continue Reading

Peter Green’s translation of Homer’s Odyssey


Homer: The Odyssey, trans. by Peter Green, 537 pp, University of California Press £24.00 hardback

You can link to this review on The Manchester Review by clicking here.

Torn Richness: The Poetry of Ted Hughes 5 – “October Salmon”

“He’s lying in poor water”. The first words of “October Salmon” create an immediate feeling of closeness to the salmon, simply by the familiar way they refer to him, plunging in as if we and the poet have been standing watching and thinking about him for some time. In the first two stanzas almost everything is small-scale, intimate and particular. There’s not only sympathy with the salmon, in the concern at his vulnerability and the poorness of the water, there’s a physical empathy too. If you read the poem aloud, the first stanza makes significant demands on the breath and … Continue Reading

Torn Richness: The Poetry of Ted Hughes 4 – In Season Songs, wonder and joy are part of the whole

The world of natural forces as Hughes presents it in his first two books tends to be grim and oppressive. He admires the energy and vitality that resist death but presents them in terms of violent self-assertion or stubborn endurance. There’s not much softness. He even describes a snowdrop as

Brutal as the stars of this month,
Her pale head heavy as metal.

In life, though, Hughes is described as having been easy-going, tender and affectionate. Softer tones come into his poetry in Wodwo, his third book. Much of his later work is remarkable for its magical, loving touch in evoking … Continue Reading

Torn Richness – the Poetry of Ted Hughes 3: Seeing animals as individuals

The poems of Moortown Diary are mostly rapid, improvisatory notes written down at the end of each day’s work on the small farm Hughes was running in Devon with the father of his second wife. In fact Hughes claimed to have deliberately short-circuited the shaping processes of poetry and intellect by writing his notes before going to bed, while the memories were still fresh and unsorted. This gives them great observational closeness. Even more important, though, is a change in his relation to the animals he writes about. He now has a working farmer’s personal relation to them, an awareness … Continue Reading

Torn Richness – the Poetry of Ted Hughes 2 “Crow Tyrannosaurus”: Exploiting the Gap

Hughes’s earlier books are much possessed by a vision of what he called “the war between vitality and death”. In later books the same sense appears more positively in terms of an acceptance of the interdependence of creation and destruction. His concern with these wider ideas means that the animals in his poems often become symbols, archetypes, and characters of myth. Sometimes this works marvellously. Sometimes it fails, at least for me. For me, failure happens when the symbolic meaning takes over from the reality of the individual animal and when the projection of a “vision of life” becomes blustering, … Continue Reading

Torn Richness – the Poetry of Ted Hughes 1

This is a first slightly edited extract from a talk I gave in Padiham Unitarian Chapel on the 9th June 2018 as part of a celebration of the writing of Ted Hughes and Sylvia Plath. It focuses on “The Thought-Fox”, which you can find here.
You can link to a video of Theresa Sowerby’s talk on Sylvia Plath here and to my talk on Hughes here .


In Poetry in the Making Hughes compares his love of capturing animals as a child with the … Continue Reading