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Two Poems

Alice Oswald, 23 January 2003

... Story of a Man last time a man was sealed in skin like an inspoken word sealed in it was mid-spring, most people arm in arm, most trees whispering and he could just make out the fluttering light it was warm, it was days you walk out without a coat and little rain showers dash across the carpark and he stood there, like a man on film, going on with his heartwork at last at last he could think clearly this is myself, he said, rubbing round all four sides of my breeze-block patience this is one or two flying strands of my eyes this is my heart’s halo’s prismatic subdivisions there were people bringing chairs to the fire-escapes, peering down ...

On Alice Oswald

Colin Burrow, 22 September 2016

... is followed by another twenty seconds of silence ‘and starts and starts’. This allows Oswald to do what she has always wanted to do, which is to represent being in time, where things recur and repeat, and in which attempts to pause and linger on the moment get thwarted by the necessary flow of time. But it also forces her not to get stuck, since ...


Aingeal Clare: Alice Oswald, 23 March 2006

Woods etc 
by Alice Oswald.
Faber, 56 pp., £12.99, May 2005, 0 571 21852 0
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... Alice Oswald, though she may not seem it at first, is an opinionated poet of ideas, and her poetry is ambitious in both form and scope. She writes taut poems about nature but refuses to call them ‘nature poems’. Her work is ‘full of hymns’, as Elizabeth Bishop said of her own, as well as pagan shouts and birdcalls ...

A Nony Mouse

Ange Mlinko: The ‘Batrachomyomachia’, 16 July 2020

‘The Battle between the Frogs and the Mice’: A Tiny Homeric Epic 
by A.E. Stallings.
Paul Dry, 109 pp., £19.99, October 2019, 978 1 58988 142 6
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by A.E. Stallings.
Farrar, Straus, 160 pp., £9.99, October 2019, 978 0 374 53868 2
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... trope’s darker side in her translations of epic similes from the Iliad and the Odyssey. While Alice Oswald in her sombre Memorial isolated Homer’s similes as lyric respites from the general slaughter, Stallings finds them underscoring the horror, as in Odyssey 22.468-473, the passage where Telemachus hangs in one noose the maidservants who slept ...

All Kinds of Unlucky

Rebecca Armstrong: A Polyphonic ‘Aeneid’, 4 March 2021

The Aeneid 
translated by Shadi Bartsch.
Profile, 400 pp., £16.99, November 2020, 978 1 78816 267 8
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... years, female writers and translators from Greek and Latin have come to increased prominence: Alice Oswald, Emily Wilson and Natalie Haynes have been among those offering new perspectives on Homer. Shadi Bartsch explicitly places her translation of Virgil in the context of her own peripatetic childhood and her subsequent experience building a career ...


Marina Warner: Medea, 3 December 2015

... for her retelling of Euripides’ Iphigenia in Aulis, is ‘transadaptation’. More eloquently, Alice Oswald subtitled her book-length elegy, Memorial, which revisits the Iliad, an ‘excavation’. There are other words, too: Jeanette Winterson has borrowed ‘cover’ from the music industry for her retelling of The Winter’s Tale. In earlier ...


Patricia Craig, 19 September 1985

But for Bunter 
by David Hughes.
Heinemann, 223 pp., £8.95, September 1985, 0 434 35410 4
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Bunter Sahib 
by Daniel Green.
Hodder, 272 pp., £8.95, September 1985, 0 340 36429 7
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The Good Terrorist 
by Doris Lessing.
Cape, 370 pp., £9.50, September 1985, 0 224 02323 3
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Unexplained Laughter 
by Alice Thomas Ellis.
Duckworth, 155 pp., £8.95, August 1985, 0 7156 2070 3
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Polaris and Other Stories 
by Fay Weldon.
Hodder, 237 pp., £8.95, August 1985, 0 340 33227 1
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... General Strike. It’s Bunter’s tailor who runs up some subsequently notorious black shirts for Oswald Mosley and his followers. Churchill assumes power in 1940 at the behest of Bunter. Bunter is at the bottom of the Suez business. ‘The Waste Land’ is a patch of ground at the back of the Bunter residence. David Hughes even devises a comic ...

Back from the Underworld

Marina Warner: The Liveliness of the Dead, 17 August 2017

The Work of the Dead: A Cultural History of Mortal Remains 
by Thomas Laqueur.
Princeton, 711 pp., £27.95, October 2015, 978 0 691 15778 8
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... honours the dead on both sides in the Trojan War and he gives us more than two hundred names – Alice Oswald opens her fine ‘excavation’ of the Iliad, which is explicitly called Memorial, by listing them. But this list, horribly long as it is, does not remember all who died at Troy. The roll call of the fallen doesn’t include women, for a ...

Bad Nights

D.A.N. Jones, 23 October 1986

The Casualty 
by Heinrich Böll, translated by Leila Vennewitz.
Chatto, 189 pp., £9.95, October 1986, 9780701129286
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by Allan Massie.
Bodley Head, 339 pp., £9.95, September 1986, 0 370 30757 7
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Gabriel’s Lament 
by Paul Bailey.
Cape, 331 pp., £9.95, September 1986, 0 224 02823 5
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The Mind and Body Shop 
by Frank Parkin.
Collins, 221 pp., £9.95, September 1986, 0 00 217695 5
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... the nickname given to the narrator of Gabriel’s Lament by his stupid father, Oswald Harvey, who brings Gabriel a rubber sheet to sleep on, because ‘the stench in here,’ says Oswald, ‘is offending my nostrils.’ Later on, Oswald comes into Gabriel’s bedroom at ...


Susannah Clapp, 18 February 1988

A Woman of Passion: The Life of E. Nesbit, 1858-1924 
by Julia Briggs.
Hutchinson, 473 pp., £16.95, November 1987, 9780091682101
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Narratives of Love and Loss: Studies in Modern Children’s Fiction 
by Margaret Rustin and Michael Rustin.
Verso, 268 pp., £22.95, November 1987, 9780860911876
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... child was still-born; the love affair lasted for the rest of Bland’s life. The ‘nurse’ was Alice Hoatson, who four years earlier had accepted one of Nesbit’s short stories for publication in Sylvia’s Home Journal. Called ‘Mouse’ by the Blands, and known as ‘Uncle Harry’ to the readers of her poems for children, Hoatson underweeningly ...

How do you spell Shakespeare?

Frank Kermode, 21 May 1987

William Shakespeare. The Complete Works: Original-Spelling Edition 
edited by Stanley Wells and Gary Taylor.
Oxford, 1456 pp., £75, February 1987, 9780198129196
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William Shakespeare: The Complete Works 
edited by Stanley Wells and Gary Taylor.
Oxford, 1432 pp., £25, October 1986, 0 19 812926 2
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... mooted long ago by R.B. McKerrow, but he produced only the Prolegomena (1939) before he died, and Alice Walker, who took over the project, did not issue a single play. With this discouraging history behind him, Professor Wells seems not to have been thinking of old spelling when he mounted the present assault on the Shakespearian summit. ‘The newly proposed ...

Bonfire in Merrie England

Richard Wilson: Shakespeare’s Burning, 4 May 2017

... reassured that it was only ‘Mr Gisbourne’s bonfire’. An hour later, the theatre manageress, Alice Rainbow, was finally warned that the building was on fire. She ran through the theatre opening all the doors and windows in the misguided hope that this would curb it. By early afternoon, as Sally Beauman records in her history of the Royal Shakespeare ...

The Empty Bath

Colin Burrow: ‘The Iliad’, 18 June 2015

Homer: ‘The Iliad’ 
translated by Peter Green.
California, 560 pp., £19.95, May 2015, 978 0 520 28141 7
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... domestic life. Recent English poetic responses to the Iliad have tended to emphasise its violence. Alice Oswald’s Memorial (2011) makes the poem a string of elegies for the dead interspersed with similes, and pares away almost all narrative elements. Christopher Logue’s dazzling paraphrases adopt a fragmentary form which appears to have been broken ...


Peter Wollen: Tank by Patrick Wright, 16 November 2000

Tank: The Progress of a Monstrous War Machine 
by Patrick Wright.
Faber, 499 pp., £25, October 2000, 0 571 19259 9
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... sinister relationship to Fuller’s later transfer of allegiance from the ‘Great Beast’ to Sir Oswald Mosley and the British Union of Fascists. Anti-semitic, anti-homosexual, a devotee of the Tannhauser legend and a believer in ‘survival of the fittest’, Fuller was obsessed with ideas of decadence and national decline, with the ‘intellectual and ...

Infante’s Inferno

G. Cabrera Infante, 18 November 1982

Legacies: Selected Poems 
by Heberto Padilla, translated by Alastair Reid and Andrew Hurley.
Faber, 179 pp., £8.75, September 1982, 0 374 18472 0
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... went before and after that unholy second coming. Edna O’Brien, poor girl, visited Cuba the way Alice travelled to the other side of the looking-glass – darkly but gladly. England can be so boring on a wet afternoon! Besides she had never tasted looking-glass milk. That’s what they call the daiquiri in Havana. She was given a guided tour of the island ...

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