On Alice Oswald

Colin Burrow

It would be very easy for Alice Oswald to get stuck. She had great and deserved success with Dart (2002), a poem that sought to be a river. It wandered from source to sea, taking in voices of Devon and its history as it went, and deepening and widening as it reached the estuary. When she revisited the notion of a poem as riverrun in A Sleepwalk on the Severn (2009), which replayed five moonrises beside the River Severn at different phases of the moon, she seemed in danger of embanking her imagination into a repeated form, and becoming not just a river poet but a poet who had to rely on the physical and temporal flow of water to give her work a shape and direction. What next? The Humber? A fluvial chorography of Britain after the not entirely auspicious example of Michael Drayton’s Poly-Olbion?

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