John Redmond

John Redmond’s latest collection of poems, MUDe, is published by Carcanet.

Perish the thought: Derek Mahon

John Redmond, 8 February 2001

In his undergraduate days at Trinity College Dublin in the early 1960s, Derek Mahon cast a spell over his contemporaries, as he would cast a spell over his early readers. He had wit, taste and a literary knowledge beyond his years; his distinctiveness as a Belfast poet was crucially accentuated by his study of French literature, which Irish poets had been slow to explore. Fellow students who...

Send no postcards, take no pictures

John Redmond, 21 May 1998

Kenneth Koch ends his fine and amusing collection, One Train, with a sequence called ‘On Aesthetics’, which, amongst many other things, takes in the aesthetics of Paul Valéry, of jazz, of moss, of air and of being the youngest of four sisters. In tone, the sequence is something like a cross between Auden’s ‘Academic Graffiti’ and the Private Eye scribbling of E.J. Thribb. Often, the line-breaks are deliberately clunking, as in ‘Aesthetics of the Outdoor Opera’:‘

War against the Grown-Ups

John Redmond, 21 August 1997

A recent newspaper story told of a young man who went to hospital, seeking attention for stomach pains. Expecting to find some sort of cyst, the doctors opened him up. What they removed instead was a seven-inch-long foetus with the teeth of a 16-year-old. This improbable entity was the man’s twin, ‘absorbed’ long ago in the womb and still surviving off his brother’s body. When something so unusual happens, we are often immediately conscious of its literary co-ordinates, and this story falls squarely into the macabre area of John Burnside’s work. It is queerly echoed, for instance, by the conclusion of his prose-poem ‘Aphasia in Childhood’, which deals, in part, with exploring woods as a boy: ‘I was sure, if I dug a few inches deeper, I would find a being which resembled me, in every way, except that it would be white and etiolated, like a finger of bindweed growing under stone.’


John Redmond, 28 November 1996

Born at the end of the Seventies and in decline at the beginning of the Eighties, Martianism, as a movement in British poetry, was shortlived, and as a descriptive term, misleading. Largely the creation of Craig Raine and Christopher Reid, the movement was characterised by, and remembered for, unusual similes and exotic descriptions. Its name derived from the title poem of Raine’s second collection, A Martian Sends a Postcard Home (1979), in which the Martian, rather like Robin Williams in Mork and Mindy, memorably misconstrues what he sees on our planet – interpreting caxtons, for instance, as ‘mechanical birds’ and noting how ‘Rain is when the earth is television.’ Raine’s poem was not plausible science-fiction, indeed it made no effort to be so – the alien uses earth-words to describe earth-things. His Martian was a distracting, out-of-this-world prop, a pretext for an aesthetic which was resolutely in this world.’

Accidents of Priority

John Redmond, 22 August 1996

Famous poems, like faces, are a particularly memorable kind of introduction to the person they conceal. Like other kinds of introduction, they are often what we remember a person for, or what we think of when we hear their name. Think of Larkin, for example, and what do your see? A head like a pale, bespectacled bean and then maybe an image or two from the better-known poems, the shabby lodger, say, of ‘Mr Bleaney’, or the stony couple of ‘An Arundel Tomb’. Such reflections, it might be objected, are very superficial, but as Wilde reminds us, it is only shallow people who do not judge by appearances.

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