Poems are the Duracell batteries of language, says Simon Armitage

Ezra Pound in ABC of Reading: ‘Dichten = condensare.’ Meaning poetry is intensification, ‘the most concentrated form of verbal expression’. Simon Armitage saying the same thing, memorably, genially, metaphorically, democratically: ‘How much power and force could be stored in — and retransmitted by — such compact shapes. Poems as the Duracell batteries of language.’ Both poets go straight to the point. But a shift has taken place — in tone, in attack — which can be illustrated also by the photographs Armitage found as a ‘sleep-walking’ teenager leafing through Worlds, a sampler of seven contemporary poets, edited by Geoffrey Summerfield: ‘Norman MacCaig watched television and smoked fags.’ We are in

Despotic laws can — even should — be ignored, says Jonathan Sumption

Jonathan Sumption has developed ‘many strange habits over the years’, he tells us disarmingly, and one of these is to read the international press. ‘I read the French and German press most days, and sometimes the Italian and Spanish press as well.’ Some might think the retired Supreme Court justice was showing off. But these remarks were addressed to a group of German judges at the end of 2019. His message to them was that the British people might have been wrong to vote for Brexit — but they were not, as reported in the continental press, ‘at best naive and at worst mad’. That’s good to know. But readers