Poetry

Lauren Laverne (Photo: Getty)

Late Night Woman’s Hour assumes that all women think about is dating, desire and drinking

5 September 2015

Late Night Woman’s Hour has created a Twitter storm with its twice-weekly (Thursdays and Fridays) doses of ‘mischievous and unbridled conversation’. The 11 p.m.–midnight slot is an ideal opportunity for… Read more

Author, critic and TV presenter Clive James (Photo: Getty)

‘Doorways to the unknown’: Clive James’s Latest Readings

22 August 2015
Latest Readings Clive James

Yale, pp.192, £12.99, ISBN: 9780300213195

In the preface to his great collection of essays The Dyer’s Hand, W.H. Auden claimed: ‘I prefer a critic’s notebooks to his treatises.’ Auden’s criticism is like that: a passage… Read more

Author Jonathan Galassi (Photo: Elena Seibert)

Jonathan Galassi’s fictional poet made me doubt my knowledge of American literature

15 August 2015
Muse Jonathan Galassi

Cape, pp.272, £14.99, ISBN: 9780224102414

Jonathan Galassi is an American publisher, poet and translator. In his debut novel Muse, his passion for the ‘good old days’ of the publishing industry is palpable: a time when… Read more

‘Thetis giving Achilles his arms’ (fresco), Giulio Romano, 1492–1546

A new translation of the Iliad

8 August 2015
The Iliad, Homer: A New Translation Peter Green

University of California Press, pp.580, £19.95, ISBN: 9780520281417

‘Why do another translation of Homer?’ Richmond Lattimore asked in the foreword to his own great translation of the Iliad first published in 1951. It was a doubt he was… Read more

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Helen Vendler is full of condescending waffle (and not just when she’s attacking me)

25 July 2015
The Ocean, the Bird and the Scholar: Essays on Poetry and Poets Helen Vendler

Harvard, pp.464, £25.95, ISBN: 9780674736566

Is it possible to tell a good poem from a bad one? To put the question another way: are there objective, even scientific, standards for evaluating literature? Helen Vendler has… Read more

Edward Thomas (Photo: Getty)

Edward Thomas: the prolific hack (who wrote a book review every three days for 14 years) turned to poetry just in time

23 May 2015
Edward Thomas: From Adlestrop to Arras Jean Moorcroft Wilson

Bloomsbury, pp.356, £25, ISBN: 9781408187135

Edward Thomas was gloomy as Eeyore. In 1906 he complained to a friend that his writing ‘was suffering more & more from a silly but unavoidable nervous interest in the… Read more

Prince Alemayehu (Photo: Getty)

This radio programme almost made me like Piers Morgan

9 May 2015

An extraordinary black-and-white photograph of a young black boy taken on the Isle of Wight by Julia Margaret Cameron in 1868 shows him in exotic clothes and a heavy silver-bead… Read more

Poet John Clare spent much of his life destitute, and died in Northampton General Asylum. (Photo: Getty)

What’s On in South Devon gave me three choices: functioning psychotic preacher, bingo or a poetry evening

25 April 2015

I’m such a constitutional lightweight lately that I’ve started looking on the website What’s On in South Devon for things to do of an evening that don’t involve total annihilation.… Read more

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There’s nothing wrong with getting into Thomas Tallis on the back of Fifty Shades of Grey

28 February 2015

Great works of art may have a strange afterlife. Deracinated from the world that created them they are at the mercy of what people think is important centuries later. Nothing… Read more

The Shading Out of Poetry by Deadline

7 February 2015

Like old-time washerwomen floodwater is sousing trees and shrubs out on the drainage. Floating wrack dribbles seaward from their labour. Last time rains poured day and night in this way,… Read more

TS Eliot

A poet’s progress: from Tom the American boy to T.S. Eliot

31 January 2015
Young Eliot: From St Louis to The Waste Land Robert Crawford

Jonathan Cape, pp.493, £25, ISBN: 9780224093880

The musical Cats reopened in the West End in December, with a judge from The X Factor in the lead role. The music is by Andrew Lloyd Webber and the… Read more

London Based Scots Celebrate Burns Night With Haggis And Whisky

The risks of being an Englishman on Burns Night

31 January 2015

I’m rubbish at public speaking and detest it. Even the thought of reciting an English poem of my choice at a Burns Night Supper cast a long shadow beforehand, in… Read more

Old mill boards and sea-green slates: Yeats’s tower

On the Yeats trail in Galway

24 January 2015

The Go Galway bus from Dublin sounds an unlikely pleasure, but it is both comfortable and punctual. There is free Wi-Fi if you want it, but it would be criminal… Read more

Benjamin Robert Haydon’s portrait of William Wordsworth

The table talk of the poets: dining with Keats, Yeats, Blunt and Lamb, Flint, Pound and Moore

3 January 2015
The Immortal Evening: A Legendary Dinner with Keats, Wordsworth and Lamb Stanley Plumly

W. W. Norton, pp.336, £18.99, ISBN: 9780393080995

Poets and the Peacock Dinner: The Literary History of a Meal Lucy McDiarmid

Oxford University Press, pp.212, £20, ISBN: 9780198722786

In December 1817 Benjamin Robert Haydon — vivid diarist and painter of huge but inferior canvases of historic events — held a Sunday luncheon to which he invited John Keats,… Read more

"Gulf Stream" by Winslow Homer Photo: Getty

Why radio is a surprisingly good medium for talking about art

22 November 2014

You might think it a fool’s errand to attempt programmes about art on the wireless. How can you talk about pictures or sculptures or any other visual form without being… Read more

Poet Wendy Cope Photo: Getty

Wendy Cope on hating school, meeting Billy Graham and enduring Freudian analysis

15 November 2014
Life, Love and the Archers: Recollections, Reviews and Other Prose Wendy Cope

Two Roads, pp.300, £16.99, ISBN: 9781444795363

A surprise! I took this book from its envelope expecting a fresh collection of Wendy Cope’s poems, and opened it to find prose — a variety of memoirs, reflections, articles… Read more

Joss Stone visits 'Blood Swept Lands and Seas of Red' at the Tower of London  Photo: The Royal British Legion/Charlie Davies

We know that war is hell. But it doesn’t ever make us stop doing it

15 November 2014

There’s a plausible theory — recently rehearsed in the BBC’s excellent two-part documentary The Lion’s Last Roar? — that our war in Afghanistan was largely the creation of the Army,… Read more

Ezra Pound in the early 1920s

Ezra Pound – the fascist years

18 October 2014
Ezra Pound: Poet, Volume II: The Epic Years A. David Moody

OUP, pp.421, £25, ISBN: 9780199215584

‘There are the Alps. What is there to say about them?/ They don’t make sense. Fatal glaciers, crags cranks climb, /Jumbled boulder and weed’, was Basil Bunting’s 1949 opinion of… Read more

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Clive James on his late flowering: ‘I am in the slightly embarrassing position where I write poems saying I’m about to die and then don’t’

4 October 2014

Clive James has published a new poem days before we meet. It opens, ‘Your death, near now, is of an easy sort’. It is about a Japanese maple his daughter… Read more

Peter Levi Photo: Getty

Peter Levi – poet, priest and life-enhancer

30 August 2014
Peter Levi: Oxford Romantic Brigid Allen

Signal Books,, pp.452, £19.99, ISBN: 9781903493989

Hilaire Belloc was once being discussed on some television programme. One of the panellists was Peter Levi. The other critics expressed their doubts about the old boy. Levi leaned forward… Read more

Larkin-final-3

The biography that makes Philip Larkin human again

23 August 2014
Philip Larkin: Life, Art and Love James Booth

Bloomsbury, pp.532, £25, ISBN: 9781408851661

How does Philip Larkin’s gloom retain such power to disturb? His bleakest verses have the quality of direct address, as if a poetical Eeyore were protesting directly into our ear.… Read more

W.B. Yeats and T.S. Eliot Photo: Getty

Sorbet with Rimbaud

23 August 2014
Bloomsbury and the Poets Nicholas Murray

Rack Press Editions, pp.54, £8, ISBN: 9780992765460

The Bloomsbury of the title refers to the place, not the group. The group didn’t have a poet. ‘I would rather be a child and walk in a crocodile down… Read more

Poet John Clare Photo: Getty

You owe it to yourself to visit John Clare country

2 August 2014

This has been a terrible year for horseflies. It’s bad enough if you’re human: often by the time you swat them off the damage has already been wrought by their… Read more

‘A Sounding Line’ (2006–7). Detail of de Waal’s 66 porcelain vessels in white and celadon glazes, Chatsworth House, Derbyshire

How good an artist is Edmund de Waal?

26 July 2014
Edmund de Waal A.S. Byatt, Colm Tóibín, Peter Carey, Emma Crichton-Miller and others

Phaidon, pp.271, £59.95, ISBN: 9780714867038

For Edmund de Waal a ceramic pot has a ‘real life’ that goes beyond functionalism.This handsome book (designed by Atelier Dyakova) at the mid-point of his career, raises the question:… Read more

Portrait of John Wilmot, Earl of Rochester, with his pet monkey, attributed to Jacob Huysmans

Thug, rapist, poetic visionary: the contradictory Earl of Rochester

28 June 2014
Blazing Star: The Life and Times of John Wilmot, Earl of Rochester Alexander Larman

Head of Zeus, pp.352, £25, ISBN: 9781781851098

Despite being an earl, Rochester is very nearly a major poet. His poems and letters were torn up by a zealous mother after his death, bent on destroying anything obscene… Read more