Sean O’Brien

Sean O’Brien’s fourth book of poems, Ghost Train, won the 1995 Forward Prize. The Deregulated Muse, a collection of essays on contemporary poetry, is published by Bloodaxe.

Poem: ‘Welcome Major Poet!’

Sean O’Brien, 14 October 1999

We have sat here in too many poetry readings Wearing the liberal rictus and cursing our folly, Watching the lightbulbs die and the curtains rot And the last flies departing for Scunthorpe. Forgive us. We know all about you. Autumn gives way to midwinter once more, As states collapse, as hemlines rise, as we miss both, And just as our teeth fall discreetly into our handkerchiefs, Slowly the...

A Necessary Gospel

Sean O’Brien, 6 June 1996

It was as a poet that Fred D’ Aguiar first won recognition, with his 1985 collection Mama Dot, set in the Guyanese village where the English-born D’ Aguiar was sent to be educated. The place is dominated by Mama Dot, the archetypal grandmother, source of wisdom, comfort and discipline, a woman so important that when she falls ill nature itself goes to pieces:

Poem: ‘Before’

Sean O’Brien, 8 December 1988

Make over the alleys and gardens to birdsong, The hour of not-for-an-hour. Lie still. Leave the socks you forgot on the clothes-line. Leave slugs to make free with the pansies. The jets will give Gatwick a miss And from here you could feel the springs wake By the doorstep and under the precinct Where now there is nobody frozenly waiting. This is free time, in the sense that a handbill Goes...

Anthologies are powerful things: movements are launched, periods are parcelled up, writers are made and broken. They are, or want to be, the book world’s performative utterances: defining...

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Advice for the New Nineties

Julian Symons, 12 March 1992

Every poetic rebellion hardens sooner or later into an ossification of style and language and needs replacement by something at the time believed to be its opposite. In the 20th century it has...

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Martian Arts

Jonathan Raban, 23 July 1987

In 1972 the final issue of Ian Hamilton’s Review was given over to a symposium on ‘The State of Poetry’. Only fifteen years on, it has the flavour of a yellowed historical...

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