Monthly Archives: July 2013

A few days in Yeats country

I’ve had a persistent Yeats obsession since I was about sixteen. Over the past two decades I’ve come back to his poems again and again, been involved in three (varyingly successful) productions of his plays, and amassed enough books by or about him to cause a fair amount of the shelf-space problem in our flat. But in that same two decades I hadn’t visited Sligo – or even Ireland – until last week, when my wife’s extended family converged on Rosses Point for a 90-strong reunion. Continue reading

Understanding Poetry #5: Metrics

Metrics (the language of poetic rhythm) can add rich new layers to our understanding of poetry. It’s also one of the chief reasons people believe poetry is difficult. Start talking about iambic pentameter or dactylic trimeter and you’ll often reduce a room full of enthusiastic readers to a room full of bored poetry-phobics.

At the heart of this is the mistaken belief that you need to know about metrics to appreciate poetry. Continue reading

Spoken Music: Ledbury 2013

My wife and I have just returned from two days at the Ledbury Poetry Festival. We impulse-attended an enjoyable workshop by Jane Routh and Mike Barlow on short poems, ate delicious local beef and went ambling in the Malvern Hills in unsuitable footwear. But all of this was incidental to our reason for going: the opportunity to hear Owen Sheers and Deryn Rees-Jones read aloud. Continue reading

The Story as it Must be Told: Meirion Jordan

I first encountered Meirion Jordan’s poems at a reading at the Troubadour in 2010. For reasons long since forgotten I was in a vile mood. The last thing I felt like was listening to poetry, but James Methven was reading as part of a Seren line-up and I’d promised to go along for moral support.

It turned out to be one of the best poetry readings I can remember. Continue reading

Understanding Poetry #4: Feature Spotting

In his 1856 work Modern Painters the critic John Ruskin introduced an idea that has since had unintended consequences for a few hundred million schoolchildren. In response to the line “The cruel, crawling foam”, he writes:

The foam is not cruel, neither does it crawl. The state of mind which attributes to it these characters of a living creature is one in which the reason is unhinged by grief. All violent feelings have the same effect. They produce in us a falseness in all our impressions of external things, which I would generally characterize as the ‘Pathetic Fallacy‘. Continue reading