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

Michael Hofmann, One Lark, One Horse – review

One Lark, One Horse by Michael Hofmann. £14.99 (hardback). Faber & Faber. ISBN 9780571342297

Immediate attractions of One Lark, One Horse are the poet’s sharp intelligence, spectacularly fine lexical sense and mordant wit, as in the opening of “Cricket”:

Another one of those Pyrrhic experiences. Call it
an expyrrhience. A day at Lords, mostly rain,
one of those long-drawn-out draws so perplexing to Americans.

Creating the illusion of headlong, spontaneous speech, Hofmann’s assured control of rhythm and syntax makes puns, images and ideas seem to ignite almost incidentally. The tone keeps changing, and different perspectives play into and out of each other, but … 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

Review – Frances Sackett, Cradle of Bones

Cradle of Bones, The High Window Press, , 98 pp., £10

I’m delighted that my friend Frances Sackett, with whom I discussed poetry over a number of years, has had this collection published by The High Window Press. Her first, The Hand Glass, came out with Seren in 1996.

Some people like collections to be organized around a single clearly determined theme. That’s fine in a pamphlet but to my mind it easily becomes claustrophobic in longer volumes. I enjoy the freedom and variety you find in a body of work that’s accumulated slowly, reflecting the diversity of a poet’s interests … Continue Reading

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