Andrew Motion

Andrew Motion’s most recent book of poems is The Customs House. ‘The Discoveries of Geography’ owes a thank you to A History of the World in Twelve Maps by Jerry Brotton.

If only the stories were not so tempting – but from day one I started to embroider, and in no time was suggesting a country far to the North where fish are as large as dragons, and even minor administrators eat off gold plates, and sleep on gold beds.

That is why I have packed in my birch canoe a robe made of the feathers of more than 100 different species of bird.

So that when I have...

Poem: ‘The Wave’

Andrew Motion, 1 April 2004

For my mother at 75

The sun-room, but there’s only drizzly rain Finessing silly doodles on the view Of what would otherwise be summer grass And blameless lupins blazing at the stake. So all eyes turn indoors. And here again Like kindly furies standing over you Are friends and family who raise a glassThen falter, smile, and wait for you to speak.

You flap your hand, half anxious, half...

Poem: ‘In Memory of Ruby Yates’

Andrew Motion, 1 October 1998

Here comes Stanley Spencer with his pram – his bowl-cut – and his crazy-uncle specs – so this must be your childhood

Ruby – must be Cookham – must be 19 – 19-what – is nothing black and white – what sort of question’s that –

the war has come and gone – let’s call it 1920 and you ten – and look there’s Stanley...

‘Do you want to …’ and sometimes ‘Would you like to …’ my mother sang, never sure which was right. ‘Do you want to swing on a star? Carry moonbeams home in a jar?’ I was six but I thought I knew what she meant.‘

Poem: ‘Zero’

Andrew Motion, 19 June 1997

This is not the point, but you had only to look at your soft red atlas to have it fall open where years ago you had written PERSIA for some reason, AFGANISTAN and KASHMIR, adrift in your schoolgirl dream of ancient and modern.

The point is, rather, that once you had shown me the way into those places, perched on slabs of frost-shattered rock then floating on eagle-thermals over the tawny...

Kids Gone Rotten: ‘Treasure Island’

Matthew Bevis, 25 October 2012

John Singer Sargent’s ‘Robert Louis Stevenson and His Wife’ (1885). The first return to Treasure Island was made by Robert Louis Stevenson himself. Fourteen years after the...

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This memoir takes its title and its epigraph from Wordsworth: I have owed to them In hours of weariness, sensations sweet, Felt in the blood, and felt along the heart. The poet laureate thus...

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The Eng. Lit. Patient: Andrew Motion

Jeremy Noel-Tod, 11 September 2003

John Keats John Keats John Please put your scarf on. The author of these lines is J.D. Salinger’s fictional child-poet, Seymour Glass, showing a precocious acquaintance with literary...

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Inspiration, Accident, Genius

Helen Vendler, 16 October 1997

In the sixties, three scholarly biographies of Keats appeared within a short time: W.J. Bate’s and Aileen Ward’s in 1963, Robert Gittings’s in 1968. Each is still very useful;...

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Lawful Charm

Donald Davie, 6 July 1995

Barnes’s poems prompt no new questions about poetry, and no new convictions about it. The hoariest truths about poetry will always be new and questionable to some people, especially those...

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Alas! Deceived: Philip Larkin

Alan Bennett, 25 March 1993

‘My mother is such a bloody rambling fool,’ wrote Philip Larkin in 1965, ‘that half the time I doubt her sanity. Two things she said today, for instance, were that she had...

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Rites of Passage

Anthony Quinn, 27 June 1991

Richard Rayner's new novel, his second, opens with a nervous exhibition of rhetorical trills and twitches, buttonholing the reader like a stand-up comic on his first night: ...

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Seeing yourself dead

Nicolas Tredell, 21 February 1991

Marriage, mortality, memory, the onset of middle age and the pressure of children criss-cross Andrew Motion’s latest collection. Should we treat the vivid images and incidents that comprise...

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Philip Horne, 28 September 1989

In 1982, at the age of 30, Andrew Motion, together with Blake Morrison, claimed attention in the Introduction to the Penguin Book of Contemporary British Poetry for the idea that ‘British...

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Broadening Ocean

Brad Leithauser, 3 March 1988

Two poets, writing in nearly the same language (British English, American English) and born at nearly the same time (1952, 1951). One, Andrew Motion, is quite well-known in this country, though...

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Tales of Hofmann

Blake Morrison, 20 November 1986

The acrimony in Michael Hofmann’s book is that of a son towards his father. Like a family photograph album, the sequence ‘My Father’s House’ records the son’s growth...

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We were the Lambert boys

Paul Driver, 22 May 1986

Andrew Motion’s book is intended to portray a family’s rich self-destructiveness. He begins with Larkin’s famous quatrain: Man hands on misery to man.   It deepens...

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Venisti tandem

Denis Donoghue, 7 February 1985

A year or two ago, Geoffrey Hartman urged literary critics to declare their independence. They should not regard criticism as an activity secondary to the literature it addressed, but as an art...

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Making sense

Denis Donoghue, 4 October 1984

In ‘A Wave’, the title-poem of his new collection, John Ashbery says, among many other things: One idea is enough to organise a life and project it Into unusual but viable forms, but...

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The Last Romantic

John Bayley, 5 May 1983

Transfiguration is into a kind of poetic absence which includes only the idea of love, not its quotidian betrayals or fulfilments. ‘What remains of us is love’ in the sense that love equates with self-extinction....

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Social Arrangements

John Bayley, 30 December 1982

‘New’ poetry can mean two things. When Ezra Pound said ‘make it new’ he was willing the advent of Modernism, the birth of a consciousness transformed by the...

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Claude Rawson, 17 June 1982

The title poem of St Kilda’s Parliament is about a local institution ‘quite unlike Westminster’, a gathering ‘by interested parties to discuss the day’s work and any...

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Thomas’s Four Hats

Patricia Beer, 2 April 1981

The publishers say that The Poetry of Edward Thomas is the first full-length study to deal exclusively with Thomas’s poetry (in Britain, they must mean). On the face of it, a six-decade gap...

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