Monthly Archives: June 2013

Close Reading: Leda and the Swan

Looking in detail at how a poem achieves its effects (either out of copyright or with the author’s permission).

This week I want to look at a sonnet close up. And if you want to see how a sonnet works – what the form can be made to do when you pass a few thousand volts through it – there aren’t many examples as taut and disturbing as this one.

Leda and the Swan (W.B. Yeats, 1924)

A sudden blow: the great wings beating still
Above the staggering girl, her thighs caressed
By the dark webs, her nape caught in his bill,
He holds her helpless breast upon his breast. Continue reading

Night Thoughts: Fiona Sampson

Fiona Sampson’s haunting new collection, Coleshill, pulls off the difficult trick of evoking a real geographical place while at the same time transforming it into something magical and other.

The village of Coleshill lies at the intersection of three counties. These are profoundly liminal poems, obsessed by the boundaries between spaces and states of being. Over half the poems in the book are either explicitly set at night / twilight or else feature dreams or ghosts. Many of the remainder emphasize haze, blurring, shifting and floating. Reality often seems at risk of dissolving or being subsumed by internal forces. Continue reading