Poetry

The story of the cook who spent 10 years preparing food for those on death row

1 December 2018 9:00 am

You don’t need headphones to appreciate, and catch on to, the unique selling point of radio: its immediacy, its directness,…

Credit: gradyreese

I love life – and girls – too much to act my age

17 November 2018 9:00 am

New York A little Austrian count was born to my daughter last week in Salzburg, early in the morning of…

St Francis receiving the stigmata. Credit Getty Images

Francis of Assisi’s life in poetry will stay in the mind forever

3 November 2018 9:00 am

This passionate series of engagements with the life of St Francis will stay in my mind for a very long…

Pithy and profound: the beauty of aphorisms

13 October 2018 9:00 am

It’s not surprising, perhaps, that Emil Cioran isn’t much read in England. Born in Romania, but winning a scholarship to…

A woman-child of dangerous assurance: Allison Cook as Salome in Adena Jacobs’s new production for English National Opera. [Catherine Ashmore]

A fascinating failure, but a failure nonetheless: ENO’s Salome reviewed

6 October 2018 9:00 am

Yes, Oscar Wilde never wrote it. No, Strauss didn’t intend it. In fact, the composer famously demanded the Dance of…

What a scorcher: bearing the brunt of Harold Pinter’s temper was one of life’s central experiences

The night I kissed Harold Pinter

22 September 2018 9:00 am

Craig Raine remembers Harold Pinter

Like ‘gammon’, ‘spasmodic’ was a term to put down a despised tendency

2 June 2018 9:00 am

To find out why the poetry of Ebenezer Jones was thought execrably bad, I turned to The Spectator of September…

Benjamin Zephaniah once found the leg of a man in the back of a Ford Cortina

5 May 2018 9:00 am

‘For me rhyming was normal,’ said Benjamin Zephaniah, reading from his autobiography on Radio 4. Back in the 1960s, on…

He, they, fae, fer or ze? Check your pronouns

7 April 2018 9:00 am

Jay Bernard won the Ted Hughes Award last week. I managed to hear a snippet of the winning poem on Today…

A Book of Chocolate Saints: an Indian novel like no other

24 March 2018 9:00 am

The Indian poet Jeet Thayil’s first novel, Narcopolis, charted a two-decade-long descent into the underworlds of Mumbai and addiction. One…

Trahison des clercs — a phrase that dates back all the way to 1927

3 March 2018 9:00 am

I had long associated the phrase trahison des clercs with the writer Geoffrey Wheatcroft, though I can’t put my finger…

‘Glad Day’ by William Blake

What do Walt Whitman, Jackson Pollock and Jimi Hendrix have in common?

13 January 2018 9:00 am

On 3 September 1968, Allen Ginsberg appeared on William F. Buckley’s Firing Line. Buckley exposed Ginsberg’s politics as fatuous —…

Nine reasons to be cheerful this year

6 January 2018 9:00 am

Since it’s the first week of the New Year I’m going to pretend the bad stuff isn’t happening and focus…

The genius of Ken Dodd

11 November 2017 9:00 am

It’s always odd to hear a familiar voice on a different programme, playing an alternative role. They never sound quite…

Is ‘jihadi culture’ a contradiction in terms?

28 October 2017 9:00 am

Jihadi Culture might sound like a joke title for a book, like ‘Great Belgians’ or ‘Canadian excitements’. But in this…

Blue and Yellow Macaw, c.1834

Edward Lear: where art and nonsense collide

14 October 2017 9:00 am

Peter Parker on the modest, melancholy and astonishingly gifted painter and author

The bright, funny side of Sylvia Plath

7 October 2017 9:00 am

In May 1956, three months after meeting Ted Hughes, one before they will marry, Sylvia Plath writes to her mother…

Czesław Miłosz in Paris in 2001

Czeslaw Milosz’s highly acclaimed poetry does little for Craig Raine

1 July 2017 9:00 am

Milan Kundera’s novel Immortality wryly depicts Goethe preparing for immortality — neatly laying out his life in Dichtung und Warheit…

My father the bigamous sociopath — by Molly Brodak

24 June 2017 9:00 am

Molly Brodak, a fair, young Polish-American born in Michigan, is a winner of the Iowa Poetry Prize. Iowa: that hotbed…

Amusing, surprising, diverting and uplifting portrait of John Betjeman at Theatre Royal

10 June 2017 9:00 am

Sand in the Sandwiches is the perfect show for those who feel the West End should be an intellectual funfair.…

My father, the gun-toting Catholic priest

27 May 2017 9:00 am

This is one of the most remarkable, hilarious, jaw-droppingly candid and affecting memoirs I have read for some time —…

Every Easter, I think of the artist and poet David Jones

15 April 2017 9:00 am

Each Easter, I think of David Jones (1895-1974). He was a distinguished painter and, I would (though unqualified) say, a…

The Mountains of Parnassus: Czeslaw Milosz’s curious sci-fi experiment

8 April 2017 9:00 am

Science fiction is not the first thing one thinks of in connection with the Polish poet Czeslaw Milosz, though the…

Cynthia Nixon is terrific as Emily Dickinson: A Quiet Passion reviewed

8 April 2017 9:00 am

Films can be poetry — or like poetry; or poetic, at least — but can poetry ever be film? That…

Self-portrait

David Jones – the 20th century’s great neglected genius

1 April 2017 9:00 am

When Stravinsky visited David Jones in his cold Harrow bedsit, he came away saying, ‘I have been in the presence…