TLM Issue

Changing of the Guard

Royal Opera House, Winter/Spring 2017 Richard Wagner, Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg, Giuseppe Verdi, Il trovatore, Francesco Cilea, Adriana Lecouvreur Kasper Holten was appointed Covent Garden’s Director of Opera in 2011, having previously been boss of Denmark’s Royal Opera whose ultra-modern home Operaen by the docks in Copenhagen was paid for in 2005 to the tune [...]

The Match Factory

  Are you troubled by SPIRITS? Call FRANÇOIS, GIFTED MEDIUM, on 07812 678321. The advert was in the back of a folded-up newspaper someone had left on the bus, between the personals and furniture for sale. There was a little sketch underneath of praying hands with waves of rainbow light coming off them. I stared [...]

Looking at Michael Andrews

Michael Andrews: Earth Air Fire, Gagosian Gallery, 20 Grosvenor Hill, London, until 25 March 2017 The School of London has attracted a huge amount of attention since the term was first coined by R.B. Kitaj in 1976. Kitaj was in search of like- minded figurative artists to support his own thesis that drawing and observation [...]

Leaving Cuba

I am woken by Suci, the village postman, knocking at our door. ‘Pavel,’ he calls, coming round to tap the shutters of my room. ‘I’ve got a letter for you – from Havana!’ It’s not often that we get letters at my house – just once or twice a year. I jump out of bed [...]

Bread and Salt

The lighthouse was somewhere in the south of his country, that stood unused in the wet smoke that rose from the sea, maybe no more than ten metres below the candy stripe, that looked no better now, than as the day it was painted. No longer a boy, he works twelve hours a day, with [...]

The Hurt

These days are sadness at its most vivid. You have, at dawn, at dusk, the prayer call, the Ezan , the Takbir and the Shahada sung like smoke caught in the heat of the throat, a prayer-wisp, a delicate meandering. Then the bells from St. Sophia will start. Their self regard rattling the valley with [...]

Ha Ha Ha

I didn’t like their album cover This was long before we met He teetered to his digs after the gig Tiptoe boots and a bottom I’d’ve Traversed Leeds for. Ha Ha Ha A jeer on the back of his jacket In red sticky tape. Is that what Attracted them? He must have been a fan. [...]

Whoever is Left to Count the Grain

And measure the rings Do not leave out the xylem Of mingling auras And the sap that adheres Our dream-laden musings Find not the misspoken words And broken deeds When our glowing chaff Sparks the reaper’s moon Like the fireflies of a bonfire Whosoever is left to count the grains Leave the barley of my [...]

Lemons in August

Mineral green Lisbons poised in the desert. I’m watching bees drunk with sun. A blistered leaf. Outside Phoenix, west of the municipal airport, cicadas drone in the mesquite’s shade. All morning the story on Reuters is bombing. I’m counting spent blooms on the vine. What good are the rosemary? Orange jubilee scaling uniform walls? The [...]

The Copulation of Angels

When Milton spoke of the ‘copulation of angels’ And Lear said, ‘Let copulation thrive!’ They were praising the way that the life-force Overcomes death with love’s sexual drive. ‘There’s little else that life can supply,’ Said John Wilkes, the people’s tribune, ‘But a few good fucks and then we die.’ Leaving our dust in continuous [...]

A Child of the Sun

Katherine Mansfield and Psychology, eds. Clare Hanson, Gerri Kimber, Todd Martin, Edinburgh University Press, September 2016, 224 pp, £70.00 (hardback) Katherine Mansfield: The Early Years by Gerri Kimber, Edinburgh University Press, September 2016, 272 pp, £30.00 (hardback) In Point Counter Point (1928), Aldous Huxley caricatured the critic John Middleton Murry as Burlap, a figure who spends [...]

The Long Passage

The herons of Netherton Woods are standing still to watch the stillness that hangs at the end of their bills. They are waiting for a movement; a stirring underneath the silent glass; a sign to herald the end of their hunger here, this mizzled Devon morning. I have watched them in my own stillness and [...]

Unhappy Families

Revolution: Russian Art 1917 – 1932, Royal Academy of Arts, until 17th April 2017 Remake everything. Organise it so as to make everything new, so that our false, dirty, boring, ugly life becomes just, clean, happy and beautiful.  Alexander Blok, The Intelligentsia and the Revolution, 1918 One hundred years after the Russian Revolution, with insurgency [...]

The Barriers of Love

Letters to Akhmatova, Patricia McCarthy, Waterloo Press /Agenda Poetry, August 2015, £9.00 (paperback) How does a contemporary poet write a long poem? One solution is to chop it up, create a sequence. This is not new. Shakespeare’s Sonnets, after all, tell a story. They make up a novel, really: one with an ambiguous, complicated, compelling [...]

Statues Missing Chunks

In the Roman Art wing of who-knows-which museum ancient torsos are on exhibit some of which are missing chunks. Time was meticulous in choosing what to carry off (the first parts to fall varied according to gender: there are Three Graces without heads a penisless Phoebus) surely there must be some place anatomy abounds for [...]

The Past Beneath Our Feet

September in the Rain by Peter Robinson, Holland House, September 2016, 280pp, £11.99 (paperback) Collected Poems by Peter Robinson, Shearsman Books, February 2017, 518pp, £19.95 (paperback) Roy Fisher has noted how unusual it is in English poetry nowadays ‘to find a writer of Peter Robinson’s sophistication occupying himself with what appears, at least, to be [...]

I Want to Find Nothing

First, you must get rid of absolutes: Those Sundays you had as a kid When you watched dust oat through sunslats And into net curtains; When you were bored, And had nothing to do. It was always sunny on a Sunday And still you were indoors And mum was Hoovering and you had a headache [...]

Links in the Chain

Kandinsky, Marc and Der Blaue Reiter, Edited by Ulf Kuster for Fondaton Beyeler Beyeler Stiftung, Wyss Foundation 2016   It should be almost superfluous to emphasise specifically that in our case the principle of internationalism is the only one possible. However, in these times we must say that an individual nation is only one of [...]

For Mary, Sotto Voce

Mary Cassatt painted mothers as monuments, well nourished, flourishing with their babies, with themselves, at the bath, in the nursery, kitchen, at the opera, on the lawns. They wore white, carried fans or parasols, the more white the better, white touched with blue paint to make the white whiter. Mary lets us come very close [...]

A Trinidadian Friendship

Morning, Paramin, Derek Walcott and Peter Doig, Faber & Faber, November 2016, 116 pp, £22.00 (hardback) This is a lovely, haunted book. The St. Lucian Walcott has created a series of poems which speak back to selected paintings, beautifully reproduced here, by the Trinidad-based Doig. The paintings become occasions that elicit from the poet late [...]

Malraux, Camus and the Nobel Prize by Jeffrey Meyers

André Malraux (1901-76) was born in a bourgeois quarter of Paris, Albert Camus (1913-60) in a working-class district in the provincial Algerian town of Oran. Despite their different backgrounds they had significant emotional, intellectual and aesthetic affinities. Camus’s father was killed on the Marne in October 1914; Malraux’s father committed suicide in December 1930. Camus [...]

Playing Safe

Within the pretty pale pink walls of the Adolfo Mejia theatre, in the centre of Colombia’s Caribbean coastal city of Cartagena de Indias, a thin man in jeans and a T-shirt with ‘BACH’ on his back, reveres his heroes. Chopin ‘single-handedly revolutionized piano-playing forever.’ Beethoven ‘with one hand dragged classical music to the romantic age. [...]

Lenses from Somewhere: A Memory of Ted Hughes

After I reviewed Shakespeare and the Goddess of Complete Being for the TLS, Ted Hughes wrote to me. He was very wounded by the reception of the book, which had been harsh and often sneering. In the letter, he imagined himself caught in the malignant circuitry of Measure for Measure: I knew that our academic [...]

Sir Christoper Wren and Henry Moore

Beside the Mansion House in the City of London is a small building which does not draw attention to itself and thousands of people walk past every day without pausing to venture inside. This is the church of St. Stephen Walbrook whose interior has been praised by discerning voices as Sir Christopher Wren’s masterpiece among [...]

The King, the Prime Minister and the Loss of the American Colonies

Last June Alistair Lexden hosted a dinner at the Carlton Club for a distinguished group of Americans, deeply involved in heritage and conservation projects, who were in England on a week’s cultural heritage tour with a particular emphasis on the late eighteenth century. He gave a brief address in which he referred more positively than [...]

Essay | My London by Venetia Welby

Venetia Welby is the author of Mother of Darkness, published by Quartet Books, February 2017. This is the twenty-first article in our regular series of 'My London'.  Venetia Welby My London The streets of Soho teem with the ghosts of its past. Here Dylan Thomas staggers out of the French House leaving his manuscript of [...]