* You are viewing the archive for November, 2013

Musical glimpses – Hugo, Stevens, Baudelaire

I stumbled on this bit of Victor Hugo in a book on nineteenth century French poetry[1]:

Sara, belle d’indolence
……….Se balance
Dans un hamac, au-dessus
Du bassin d’une fontaine
……….Toute pleine
D’eau puisée à l’Ilyssus ;

Et la frêle escarpolette
……….Se reflète
Dans le transparent miroir
Avec la baigneuse blanche
……….Qui se penche,
Qui se penche pour se voir …

My first thought was simply how lovely this is; it makes you wish English could dance in rhyme as easily as French can. My second was how like a lot of Wallace Stevens it is – the Wallace Stevens of … Continue Reading

Anne Stevenson, Astonishment

What a warm, life-enhancing book Astonishment is. Poetry seems to ooze out of Stevenson with an ease born of long practice. The mood is above all one of celebration, celebration of the strangeness and joy of being alive in the body, with active senses and an active intelligence to accept the abundance of life’s gifts.

One of the first poems, “Constable Clouds and a Kestrel’s Feather”, is a kind of disguised ars poetica and ars vivendi. It draws one in by sensuous textures, voluptuous phrasing, beautiful, sharp visual images and playful fantasy. Comparing actual clouds to clouds painted by Constable, discussing … Continue Reading

James Fenton, Yellow Tulips, Poems 1968 – 2011

James Fenton, Yellow Tulips, Poems 1968 – 2011, 176 pp, £14.99 hardback, Faber and Faber, Bloomsbury House, 74 – 77 Great Russell St, London WC1B 3DA.

Yellow Tulips – Fenton’s new Selected Poems – reminds us what a towering figure he is. Its 160 pages cover a startling range of themes, tones, techniques and styles, often fusing modernist and contemporary elements with others that many would consider obsolete.

In the “Recent Work” section, for example, how many contemporary poets would write with the marmoreal gravity of “Memorial”, Fenton’s homage to the slain drivers and interpreters of war reporters, and then switch modes … Continue Reading