A. E. Stallings

A. E. Stallings: This Afterlife

38 min listen

In this week’s Book Club podcast, my guest is the distinguished poet A. E. Stallings, whose new selected poems This Afterlife marks her first UK publication in book form. She tells me why the idea that formal verse is stuffy is wrong, how she thinks Greek myth is a living tradition, and why women poets have to

A long way home

Until recently, it seemed we were living in an age of Iliads. Since 2007, the ancient Homeric epic has been translated into English at least seven times (including by Caroline Alexander, the first woman to do so). Yet the Iliad’s sequel, the Odyssey — about war’s aftermath, the home front and the difficult return to

Bird thou never wert

The most appealing phoenix in literature is surely the eponymous bird from E. Nesbit’s 1904 classic, The Phoenix and the Carpet. A mysterious egg arrives in the children’s nursery on Guy Fawkes night (J.K. Rowling’s phoenix, ‘Fawkes’, is the clear literary descendant), and the five children, whose adventures unfold in an atmosphere of benign neglect,

The greatest anti-war poem of all

The Iliad begins with a grudge and ends with a funeral. In between are passages, if not necessarily of boredom, to alter the war adage, of lists, pathos, sex, humour, fairytale strangeness (golden fembots, a talking horse) and lyric images, punctuated by moments of pure terror (eyes popped out of heads, a spear throbbing in


Athens The air-raid siren howls Over the quiet, the un-rioting city. It’s just a drill. But the unearthly vowels Ululate the air, a thrill While for a moment everybody stops What they were about to do On the broken street, or in the slow shops, Or looks up for an answer Into the contrailled palimpsest