I’m not actually a fan of Wordsworth. Of all the grand Romantic poets, I love John Clare. What I balk at with Wordsworth might be something that I’m concerned about in my own writing. We do this a lot. I say I don’t like people that are perhaps similar to me. Or I recognise a tendency in myself for the Wordsworthian, which is something I try to hold back on. Perhaps when I read Wordsworth it makes me cringe because I recognise my own tendencies to want [...]
I am writing this account, in another man’s book, by candlelight, inside the belly of a fish. I have been eaten. I have been eaten, yet I am living still. I have tried to get out. I have made many attempts. But I must conclude that it is not possible. I am trapped within an enormous creature and am slowly being digested. I have found a strange place to exist, a cave between life and death. It is an unhappy miracle. I am afraid of the dark. The dark is coming for me [...]
I was with Damien Hirst and Angus Fairhurst (I imagine) and we popped in. It was dingy, green and crowded. Also smoky. Ian Board was behind the bar insulting people and swearing as they came in. I thought he was horrible. Someone said, ‘He’s alright when you get to know him.’ I thought, I’ll bear that in mind. I didn’t go back for a long while. By that time Ian was dead. He was still there in the form of his sculpted head which contained his ashes. Michael Wojas said that you can roll a pinch up [...]
Wyndham Lewis’s adult life spanned two world wars. In the First he fought on the front lines and was also a war artist; in the Second he lived in poverty in America and Canada. An innovative painter, he wrote fierce polemics on art and the role of the artist in society but held a bleak view of modern life. Auden called the self-styled ‘Enemy’ and conservative advocate of western culture ‘That lonely old volcano of the Right.’ Lewis idealistically believed that the power of [...]
Undeniably, the UK has experienced a turbulent political era in the last five years, but it certainly meets its match in the five running from 1974 to 1979. From fistfights in parliament, to faked deaths, to MPs brought in to vote from their hospital beds, this period saw it all. In the critically acclaimed This House, playwright James Graham and director Jeremy Herrin masterfully capitalise on parliament’s real-life melodramas, creating an accessible political drama exploding with tension and laughter [...]
Andrés Barba’s ghostly novella Such Small Hands met with resounding critical success in its native Spain, as well as in the UK and US with English translations by Lisa Dillman, in 2017. Darkly compelling, it was lauded for its unsettling plot and baroque descriptions, blending conventions from Greek tragedy and Gothic literature [...]
No sooner than I started reading Wing, Matthew Francis’s latest collection of nature poems, did I want to read it out loud to the nearest person who would listen. ‘Longhouse Autumn’, the first, is a pungent broth of imagery, stuffed with suety metaphors: a remote Welsh beach is covered with ‘pick-and-mix shingle’, stippled with the ‘semolina and jam’ of pigeon droppings, concealing a ‘leathery mummified dogfish.’ [...]
Georges Seurat (l859-91) was a mysterious and elusive personality. Reserved in character and manner, extremely reticent about his private affairs, he kept no diaries and his rare letters were factual and impersonal. Born in Paris, the son of a retired court bailiff, he learned what he called the routine and dead practices of the Ecole des Beaux-Arts, did his military service in Brest, painted in Paris and, in summers, on the Normandy coast. Like Caravaggio, Watteau, Van Gogh, Lautrec and Modigliani, he died in his thirties [...]
"I discovered Martial’s poetry by searching for the number 104 for an unrelated reason, which was recorded on Wikipedia as being the year he probably died. I trust this kind of chance occurrence, and it led me to reading some of the epigrams, which I imagine I had vaguely heard of before. I responded immediately to their playfulness, sarcasm, brevity, devotion to social commentary, and general refusal of seriousness – especially things like Martial’s own admission that his poems aren’t even that good, a lot of the time." [...]
At first glance, Zonal looks like a change of direction for Don Paterson. He made his name as a colloquial formalist, someone who could make rhyme and metre feel like the natural way of writing poetry in English. In this book, the carefully managed forms that dominated his work till now have been replaced by a longer, looser and less metrical line. [...]
'The discomfort of boredom is never something human beings have liked, but reality and nature and the lack of technology, and the rudimentary qualities of technology, pushed back on us. The friction that we want to eradicate is defined by boredom and old age and sickness and death, and we need these things to be human, and we need these things to have interesting, vital arts and letters as well.'
Sean Bonney died in Berlin last November at the age of fifty, a couple of months after the publication of Our Death. The collection is a follow-up to his well-received Letters against the Firmament, described by Bonney, in an interview with BOMB magazine, as ‘open letters to the poetry community about the political situation in Britain’. Our Death expands on these epistolary poems: loose translations of the Greek poet Katerina Gogou appear alongside other revelatory material in both prose and verse form. The tone is bleak, drenched in premonitions of death, yet utterly gripping. [...]
Jack SollowaySinéad Gleeson on solidarity in sickness, isolation and empathy With the UK government currently advising ‘social distancing’ and the country expecting further preventative measures...
For a long time, William Wordsworth had little interest in the sonnet form. ‘I used to think it egregiously absurd,’ he claimed in an 1822 letter to Walter Savage Landor, 'though the greatest poets since the revival of literature have written in it’. If his origin story is to be believed, 1802 was the turning point, when his sister Dorothy read him some of Milton’s sonnets. Struck by their ‘dignified simplicity’ and ‘majestic harmony’, William ‘took fire’, and produced ‘three Sonnets the same afternoon’. He would go on to write no fewer than 523 over the course of his career [...]
What do we even want from coming of age? Do we want to be wise, mature people, or do we just care about ticking off a list of pre-agreed markers: homeowning, or a long-term relationship, or whatever it is? Ultimately, you can be a child, you can be the most immature and undeveloped human, and have achieved all those things. So obviously it’s a problematic term. Obviously, Catcher in the Rye is the ultimate touchstone for literary coming-of-age for most people [...]
When we were splattered with freckles and tied up in pigtails, we picked sharp rocks from the garden and pushed them into each other’s wrists, our flesh tender and white like peeled crabs. I remember the way our wounds looked, mushy and filled with pieces of grit. ‘Now we are blood brothers,’ I said. She looked at me from behind her nose. 'Blood sisters,’ she pouted. We got changed on the back seat of the car every Wednesday night as my mam drove us from school [...]
Set in Ireland in 1858, seven years after the potato famine, The Wonder tells the story of an English nurse who is hired to spend two weeks observing an eleven-year old girl, who, her parents claim, has not eaten for months. Based on the almost fifty cases of ‘fasting girls’ - of women who claimed to be surviving without food for months on end in Europe and North America between the sixteenth and twentieth centuries - Donoghue’s novel anticipates the invention of anorexia [...]
Wilfred Owen captured the national spirit best when he talked of the ‘drawing-down of blinds’, surely the most succinct depiction of English melancholia. The English spirit – distinct from of Britishness, though also a part of it – is one of deep decline under the shadow of former empire. It is the spirit of T. S. Eliot’s line ‘winter’s afternoon | In a secluded chapel’ in ‘Little Gidding’; of the quiet introit sung by an evensong choir, backing away into the cathedrals’ dingy corners [...]
Want to feel young? Fitzcarraldo Editions – whose small roster of authors includes two of the last five Nobel laureates for literature – is less than five years old. Its first book, Matthias Enard’s Zone, was published in August of 2015, which makes the independent publishing house exactly three months younger than Mad Max: Fury Road [...]
She enters. She is roused by anger and reproach. She bursts onto the right of the image as if it were a backdrop masked with curtains. One hand clutches a knife against her waist, which gleams obliquely across her belly. Her face is cold, her mouth thin, lips tight, eyebrows knit, her gaze is clear and hard, her hair is slicked into two little severely parted plaits. The knife, whose handle disappears into her balled fist, vibrates at the very center, nearly absent from it [...]
I had made her so unhappy that she had developed a sense of humor, which she certainly didn’t have when I married her . . . This line from Bluebeard’s narrator remarks on another kind of humor, the black humor Vonnegut is best known for. Its source is helplessness and despair. He explains: Laughter or crying is what a human being does when there’s nothing else he can do [...]
Chris McCabe is the National Poetry Librarian. In 2013 he was shortlisted for the Ted Hughes Award and his works include numerous poetry collections, including Speculatrix (2014) and The Triumph of Cancer (2018). His new poetry anthology Poems from the Edge of Extinction, published by Chambers this year, collects poems from endangered languages [...]
The following essay is an extract from Kenneth Womack's forthcoming book Solid State: The Story of “Abbey Road” and the End of the Beatles,...
The following is an extract from Sound Pictures: The Life of Beatles Producer George Martin (The Later Years: 1966-2016) by Kenneth Womack, published by...
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