The imagist shibboleth vs Shakespeare’s Sonnet 15

In terms of its theme and emotional dynamics 15 is one of Shakespeare’s simpler sonnets, but it has enormous power. We feel this from the very start:

When I consider everything that grows
Holds in perfection but a little moment,

The power is partly in the sheer vastness of that initial assertion and partly in the explosive way vastness is contrasted with littleness in the second line.  This creates an extreme sense of suspense – where can he be going with this? – which is in itself intensely involving. The third line makes a similar contrast but far from tamely … Continue Reading

DANTE’S COMEDY: TRANSLATION AND INTERPRETATION

Three things keep drawing me back to Dante’s Commedia: the skill, inventiveness and human depth of his story-telling, his lyrical genius, and the beauty of his terza rima meter. His use of terza rima can only be enjoyed in Italian, which for me involves heavy dependence on English translations and on the notes and glosses in modern Italian given in Anna Maria Chiavacci Leonardi’s editions of the Commedia for Zanichelli and Oscar Mondadori. In this essay I want to focus on comparing how the narrative and lyrical aspects of the poems come through in Ned Denny’s freely adaptive poetic version, … Continue Reading

Selima Hill, Men Who Feed Pigeons – review

Many readers will already be familiar with Selima Hill’s brilliant and extraordinary writing. I’d urge any who aren’t to become so, and Men Who Feed Pigeons would be an excellent place to start.

Selima Hill is very obviously a highly intelligent and sophisticated writer but she’s not at all a difficult one. My comments may sometimes be heavy-handed but I want to emphasise that this extremely accessible book gives immediate pleasure that increases in a very natural way as the poems show more and more of themselves to the reader.

They’re mostly very short and are grouped in seven sequences. The first … Continue Reading

Prufrock – metre?

I’ve been banging my head against a wall trying to get some kind of grasp on why the metre of ‘Prufrock’ works so well and just can’t do it. Perhaps if I just try to describe it in the poem’s first few lines I’ll get to some kind of conclusion.

First, what general impression does it give? Though what’s described is a mood of futility, frustration and failure of will, the opening sentence unfolds with a supple, sinewy forward momentum that can sound almost buoyant:

Let us go then, you and I,
When the evening is spread out against the sky
Like … Continue Reading

Nick Havely and Bernard O’Donoghue, eds., After Dante: Poets in Purgatory – review

After Dante: Poets in Purgatory is both a presentation of the whole Purgatorio section of Dante’s Commedia, and an anthology of sixteen poets’ different approaches to carrying it across into English. Only two really wrench it into new contexts but, as the word ‘after’ indicates, all approach the task as poets making poetry, allowing themselves more inventive freedom than, say, Robert Durling or Jean Hollander in their parallel text translations. For readers who already know the Purgatorio, or the whole Commedia, I think the diversity of the different poets’ approaches will make for richly varying interest. For those who don’t, … Continue Reading

Ashur Etwebi, Five Scenes From a Failed Revolution – review

Five Scenes From a Failed Revolution by Ashur Etwebi, translated by James Byrne,

Arc Publications, £11.99 paperback, 106 pp.

 

You can find my review on The London Grip by clicking here.

Katharine Towers, Oak – review

You can read my London Grip review of Katharine Towers’ Oak by clicking here.

 

Katharine Towers, Oak, Picador, paperback, 112 pp, £10.99

Dom Bury, Rite of Passage – review

Dom Bury’s Rite of Passage is an intense, visionary work, suffused by images of apocalypse. It presents the environmental crisis as not merely stupidly self-destructive but sinful, a perverse violation of the sacredness of earth.

The book is structured around the Roman Catholic mass for the dead and the burial rite that follows it. It’s divided into four sections, ‘Kyrie’, ‘Dies Irae’, ‘Libera Me’ and ‘In Paradism’ (sic) preceded by an introductory poem, ‘What My Body Showed Me’, and succeeded by ‘Morning’. The title’s “passage” is a movement through imminent catastrophe to a hoped-for new life in healthy relation to the … Continue Reading

Sarah Westcott, Bloom – review

You can link to my London Grip review of Sarah Westcott’s Bloom by clicking here.

 

Sarah Westcott, Bloom, 68 pp, £9.99, Liverpool University Press, 2021

Charles Boyle, The Disguise, Poems 1977–2001; Christopher Reid’s The Late Sun – review

My reviews of Charles Boyle’s The Disguise, Poems 1977–2001, selected by Christopher Reid (Carcanet, paperback, £12.99) and Christopher Reid’s The Late Sun (Faber, hardback, £14.99) are available to PN Review subscribers here