Category Archives: General

Welsh Modernism

For some people modernism ends with The Waste Land and a handful of extracts from the Cantos, after which poetry returns to its proper course via the Movement, Hughes, Heaney, the New Generation and onwards to today’s dominant voices.

The counter-position is that modernism never went away, and that (often at a distance from literary London) it produced some of the most powerful work of the past century: MacDiarmid in Scotland, Bunting in Northumbria, Hill & Prynne in their different orbits around Cambridge. Continue reading

Visions and Revisions

Last week an editor I like and respect asked for edits to two of my poems to correct for a couple of minor blemishes. In both cases the eventual changes were small, but for one of them it transformed the poem. A few comfortable words got excised and I found some less comfortable ones to replace them. In the process, the tone of the whole thing shifted (for the better). Objectively this is unsurprising, but I still found it odd how a small tweak at the end projected back into the rest of the poem and altered the extant rest-of-it.

By chance I then stumbled across a more profound example of the same thing in Geoffrey Hill’s early poem “In Memory of Jane Fraser”. Continue reading

Performance Poetry (5th century BCE)

For me, poetry is made from sound and only truly exists when it is performed (even if the performance comes from the silent voice in our own heads). This isn’t to downplay the importance of syntactic meaning, visual form or any number of other elements; but at its heart poetry is a form of spoken music (something I’ve argued before and will no doubt do so again).

I came across an interesting variation on this after meeting up with my former headmaster a few weeks ago. David Raeburn knows more about Greek tragedy as living, performed drama than anyone else I know. Continue reading

Poetry & Opera

Last week my wife and I ignored the flooding to travel to Cardiff for the opening night of WNO’s La Traviata – a revival of David McVicar’s 2008/2009 staging as part of the 2014 Fallen Women season. It’s a powerful production: late 19th century realism playing out across Violetta’s fallen tombstone (enlarged to a scale that’s not so much memento mori as a reduction of everything else on stage to fleeting memento vivere). Continue reading

Going Digital

In my day job (scholarly journals publishing) I spend a lot of time wrestling with the possibilities and challenges of digital technology. I don’t mean the basic migration of readers from print copies to online versions of the same material, but the ways in which digital technology is transforming how people read and what they publish. Continue reading

A Tremulous Thread: Basil Bunting

When I first started reading and writing poetry in the early 1990s Basil Bunting was hard to stumble across. Anthologies like The Faber Book of Modern Verse included extracts from Briggflatts, and in Croydon public library I once found a scuffed volume containing the whole thing; there was a wonderful essay in Thom Gunn’s Shelf Life; but mostly it was as if Bunting – then only eight years dead – had been airbrushed out of the picture. Continue reading