Tag Archives: Poetry

The Oxford Companion to Modern Poetry (2 ed.)

The Oxford Companion to Modern PoetryEdited by Ian Hamilton and Jeremy Noel-Tod Previous Edition (1 ed.)

This impressive Companion is an extensive guide to the lives of influential poets writing in English, in Britain and around the world, illuminating the influences, inspirations, and movements that have shaped the lives and works of our best-loved poets. It provides over 1,400 thoroughly revised and updated entries on modern poets active from 1910 to the present day.
First published in 1994 as the Oxford Companion to Twentieth Century Poetry in English and compiled by a team of 230 experts, including famous poets such as Blake Morrison and Andrew Motion, this edition also includes new biographical entries on more contemporary poets such as Don Paterson, Anne Carson, John Kinsella, and Leslie Marmon Silko. It also contains insightful entries by well-known peers, such as Seamus Heaney on Robert Lowell and Anne Stevenson on Sylvia Plath.
The biographies are complemented by entries on poetry events and movements and lists of anthologies and important poetry prizes and prize-winners. In addition, many entries include details of in-depth supplementary material available online on the dedicated companion website. This superb reference work is the ideal companion for students of English Literature, Language, and Creative Writing, as well as for anyone with an interest in modern poetry.
Jeremy Noel-Tod is a Lecturer in Literature and Creative Writing at the University of East Anglia. His published criticism includes articles on a wide range of modern poets, from W. H. Auden to Rae Armantrout. He has reviewed poetry for the Times Literary Supplement, the Daily Telegraph, the Guardian, the New Statesman, and the London Review of Books.
Ian Hamilton was the editor of The Oxford Companion to Twentieth-Century Poetry in English. He was a well-established literary critic and wrote extensively on poetry, including The Poetic Life of Matthew Arnold (1998), and Against Oblivion (2002). He was also a poet and essayist, and published many works including Steps (1997) and The Trouble with Money (1998).

Leave a comment

Filed under Reviews, Study

Skunk Hour


(For Elizabeth Bishop) Dedication Lowell’s poem is modeled on Elizabeth Bishop’s poem “The Armadillo,” which Bishop had dedicated to Lowell.

Nautilus Island’s hermit

heiress still lives through winter in her Spartan cottage;

her sheep still graze above the sea.

Her son’s a bishop. Her farmer

is first selectman in our village;

she’s in her dotage.
Thirsting for

the hierarchic privacy

of Queen Victoria’s century,

she buys up all

the eyesores facing her shore,

and lets them fall.
The season’s ill—

we’ve lost our summer millionaire,

who seemed to leap from an L. L. Bean

catalogue. His nine-knot yawl

was auctioned off to lobstermen.

A red fox stain covers Blue Hill.
And now our fairy

decorator brightens his shop for fall;

his fishnet’s filled with orange cork,

orange, his cobbler’s bench and awl;

there is no money in his work,

he’d rather marry.
One dark night,

my Tudor Ford climbed the hill’s skull;

I watched for love-cars . Lights turned down,

they lay together, hull to hull,

where the graveyard shelves on the town. . . .

My mind’s not right.
A car radio bleats,

“Love, O careless Love. . . .” I hear

my ill-spirit sob in each blood cell,

as if my hand were at its throat. . . .

I myself am hell;

nobody’s here —
only skunks, that search

in the moonlight for a bite to eat.

They march on their soles up Main Street:

white stripes, moonstruck eyes’ red fire

under the chalk-dry and spar spire

of the Trinitarian Church.
I stand on top

of our back steps and breathe the rich air—

a mother skunk with her column of kittens swills the garbage pail

She jabs her wedge-head in a cup

of sour cream, drops her ostrich tail,

and will not scare.
Listen to Robert Lowell read “Skunk Hour.”


In the concluding episode of their acclaimed series, Seamus Perry and Mark Ford confront Robert Lowell: the Boston Brahmin for whom poetry trumped every other consideration, and whose Cold War ‘confessionalism’ came to exemplify a generation of Americans’ collective trauma; the poet who changed everything, but whose star has somehow fallen. But, Perry and Ford conclude, it will – like this podcast, we hope – rise again.

Listen to the podcast: Lowell Studies

Leave a comment

Filed under Audio, Poem, Study

The true worth of Robert Burns’s manuscripts

Alan Riach

The true worth of Robert Burns’s manuscriptsIt is one of the great paradoxes of modern culture. The poems and songs of Robert Burns have been carried in the minds and mortal memories of innumerable individuals all over the world, recited, sung, performed with energy, insight and enthusiasm and given pleasure to thousands, perhaps millions of people. Meanwhile, a relatively small number of first editions of his published works and an unknown number of manuscripts are purchased and exchanged for quite extraordinary sums of money as if they were intrinsically works of art in their own right, and valued as such.
But of course, that is exactly what they are. The books, especially the Kilmarnock edition, of which 612 copies were first published in 1786, or even the Edinburgh edition, 3,000 copies of which were published in 1787, are revered and treasured. They were not mass-manufactured and are worth studying as artefacts as well as for what they carry and contain. Holding one and turning its pages must be like examining the multifaceted jewels in a royal crown. The liabilities of pomp, circumstance and the protection of private property attach to the former as much, it sometimes seems, as to the latter. More so: books often have an aura that jewellery does not.

Read the complete article

Leave a comment

Filed under History, Study


Wendell Berry

  1. How much poison are you willing

    to eat for the success of the free

    market and global trade? Please

    name your preferred poisons.

  2. For the sake of goodness, how much

    evil are you willing to do?

    Fill in the following blanks

    with the names of your favorite

    evils and acts of hatred.

  3. What sacrifices are you prepared

    to make for culture and civilization?

    Please list the monuments, shrines,

    and works of art you would

    most willingly destroy.

  4. In the name of patriotism and

    the flag, how much of our beloved

    land are you willing to desecrate?

    List in the following spaces

    the mountains, rivers, towns, farms

    you could most readily do without.

  5. State briefly the ideas, ideals, or hopes,

    the energy sources, the kinds of security,

    for which you would kill a child.

    Name, please, the children whom

    you would be willing to kill. 

Leave a comment

Filed under Poem

The Editor’s Ex


DoyleBecause you’re gone, I take a book to bed:

The Flame of Passion. Scabbard at his thigh,

Lord Henry gets the girl. You’d only buy

top Booklist picks. “The romance genre’s dead,”

you’d say when promises of I-thee-wed

lured me to bargain bins. I learned to lie

about my day, hoard Harlequins on the sly

while you were off at work, your office spread

with red-inked proofs. But now it makes me yawn

to read beyond the lovers’ wedding night.

I close The Flame, not even halfway through.

His sword grows dull while she goes on and on

about how lovers must stay true. I’d write

another ending, if I could, for you.
Read “A Ringing Echo: The Poetry of Caitlin Doyle”

Leave a comment

Filed under Poem

Blackberry Picking

Seamus Heaney

Blackberry PickingLate August, given heavy rain and sun

For a full week, the blackberries would ripen.

At first, just one, a glossy purple clot

Among others, red, green, hard as a knot.

You ate that first one and its flesh was sweet

Like thickened wine: summer’s blood was in it

Leaving stains upon the tongue and lust for

Picking. Then red ones inked up and that hunger

Sent us out with milk cans, pea tins, jam-pots

Where briars scratched and wet grass bleached our boots.

Round hayfields, cornfields and potato-drills

We trekked and picked until the cans were full

Until the tinkling bottom had been covered

With green ones, and on top big dark blobs burned

Like a plate of eyes. Our hands were peppered

With thorn pricks, our palms sticky as Bluebeard’s.

We hoarded the fresh berries in the byre.

But when the bath was filled we found a fur,

A rat-grey fungus, glutting on our cache.

The juice was stinking too. Once off the bush

The fruit fermented, the sweet flesh would turn sour.

I always felt like crying. It wasn’t fair

That all the lovely canfuls smelt of rot.

Each year I hoped they’d keep, knew they would not. 

Leave a comment

Filed under Poem


By Gwendolyn Brooks

RiotA riot is the language of the unheard.

— Martin Luther King
John Cabot, out of Wilma, once a Wycliffe,

all whitebluerose below his golden hair,

wrapped richly in right linen and right wool,

almost forgot his Jaguar and Lake Bluff;

almost forgot Grandtully (which is The

Best Thing That Ever Happened To Scotch); almost

forgot the sculpture at the Richard Gray

and Distelheim; the kidney pie at Maxim’s,

the Grenadine de Boeuf at Maison Henri.
Because the Negroes were coming down the street.
Because the Poor were sweaty and unpretty

(not like Two Dainty Negroes in Winnetka)

and they were coming toward him in rough ranks.

In seas. In windsweep. They were black and loud.

And not detainable. And not discreet.
Gross. Gross. “Que tu es grossier!” John Cabot

itched instantly beneath the nourished white

that told his story of glory to the World.

“Don’t let It touch me! the blackness! Lord!” he whispered

to any handy angel in the sky.

But, in a thrilling announcement, on It drove

and breathed on him: and touched him. In that breath

the fume of pig foot, chitterling and cheap chili,

malign, mocked John. And, in terrific touch, old

averted doubt jerked forward decently,

cried, “Cabot! John! You are a desperate man,

and the desperate die expensively today.”
John Cabot went down in the smoke and fire

and broken glass and blood, and he cried “Lord!

Forgive these nigguhs that know not what they do.”
Gwendolyn Brooks, “Riot” from Blacks.
Listen to Curtis Fox and Haki R. Madhubuti discuss this poem: The Poet and the Riot.

Leave a comment

Filed under Poem

I taste a liquor never brewed

Emily Dickinson

I taste a liquor never brewedI taste a liquor never brewed –

From Tankards scooped in Pearl –

Not all the Frankfort Berries

Yield such an Alcohol!
Inebriate of air – am I –

And Debauchee of Dew –

Reeling – thro’ endless summer days –

From inns of molten Blue –
When ‘Landlords’ turn the drunken Bee

Out of the Foxglove’s door –

When Butterflies – renounce their ‘drams’ –

I shall but drink the more!
Till Seraphs swing their snowy Hats –

And Saints – to windows run –

To see the little Tippler

Leaning against the – Sun!

Leave a comment

Filed under Poem

The Ascetic Insight of W. S. Merwin

The Ascetic Insight of W. S. MerwinAfter escaping the anxiety of influence, the poet discovered a brilliant, elemental poetry.

By Dan Chiasson

The American poet W. S. Merwin, who turns ninety this year [2017], has for decades written his scanty, unpunctuated poems from a palm forest on the remote north shore of Maui. Merwin bought the property in 1977, and began restoring the ancient trees lost when loggers and the commercial pineapple and sugar farmers started to move in more than a century ago. “After an age of leaves and feathers / someone dead / thought of this mountain as money,” Merwin writes in “Rain at Night.” He has reclaimed the mountain, and much else, for poetry. His poems, written in an environment refashioned by his hard restorative work, are adjuncts of that work, and operate according to their own stringent verbal restrictions. Wallace Stevens called his collected poems “The Planet on the Table”; Merwin’s work is more like a terrarium on the table, its elements balanced and tended in an eerie simulacrum of reality.

Read the complete article

Leave a comment

Filed under Biography

An August Midnight

Thomas Hardy

An August MidnightI

A shaded lamp and a waving blind,

And the beat of a clock from a distant floor:

On this scene enter—winged, horned, and spined—

A longlegs, a moth, and a dumbledore;

While ‘mid my page there idly stands

A sleepy fly, that rubs its hands…


Thus meet we five, in this still place,

At this point of time, at this point in space.

—My guests besmear my new-penned line,

Or bang at the lamp and fall supine.

“God’s humblest, they!” I muse. Yet why?

They know Earth-secrets that know not I.

Leave a comment

Filed under Poem