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Four Poems

Barbara Everett, 13 September 2018

... Pictures A picture book of Churches makes clear that the one Stone for the floor is A broken Peter. Overhead vacuity Lifts up the great dome. Pecunia non olet Vespasian taxed Sewage, laughed at his son’s fuss – ‘Money doesn’t smell’. It’s true. Human words And actions can smell worse than Money’s likely to. In All Saints Up in the roof large Human birds hover, there to Look after people ...

Six Poems

Barbara Everett, 4 May 2017

... The Letter He stooped to assess The scrap of paper drenched with Rain and dried by wind, An ending: ‘One can Love anything, so how much Better it was you.’ Vacation While they all went off To France and to Italy She stayed on the moon, Ankled in white dust, Walking down the craters and Sleeping by earth light. Reflection Shakespeare looked in the Glass and saw a seller of Gloves, so moved to where All men act what they Are, or are not, or might be: But the words are true ...

Poetry and Soda

Barbara Everett, 5 February 1981

The Penguin Book of Unrespectable Verse 
edited by Geoffrey Grigson.
Penguin, 335 pp., £1.75, November 1980, 0 14 042142 4
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The Penguin Book of Light Verse 
edited by Gavin Ewart.
Penguin, 639 pp., £9.50, October 1980, 0 14 042270 6
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... Anthologies are coming from the publishers with the speed of Verey lights from a sinking ship. What could he better: six hundred pages of other men’s flowers, offering relief from what Henry James is supposed on his death-bed to have attributed his wearing-out to – ‘the labour of discrimination’? But the recent profusion does leave room to reflect that some anthologies are better than other anthologies, and that some subjects are better suited than other subjects to anthologies, and that some subjects are not good subjects anyway – just as anthologies are not necessarily the best form of bookmaking ...

The Pleasures of Poverty

Barbara Everett, 6 September 1984

A Very Private Eye: An Autobiography in Letters and Diaries 
by Barbara Pym, edited by Hazel Holt and Hilary Pym.
Macmillan, 320 pp., £12.95, July 1984, 0 333 34995 4
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... The Barbara Pym story is possibly better-known than any of her novels, widely though these are now read. During the decade after 1950 she brought out half a dozen books, which were well received and found a steady if small reading public. But in 1963 her publisher, Cape, turned down her new novel, An Unsuitable Attachment, and she stayed unpublished until 1977 ...

Parodies

Barbara Everett, 7 May 1981

A Night in the Gazebo 
by Alan Brownjohn.
Secker, 64 pp., £3, November 1980, 0 436 07114 2
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Victorian Voices 
by Anthony Thwaite.
Oxford, 42 pp., £3.95, October 1980, 0 19 211937 0
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The Illusionists 
by John Fuller.
Secker, 138 pp., £3.95, November 1980, 0 436 16810 3
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... Donald Davie has proposed that Eliot’s Quartets are in some sense a work of self-parody, with ‘The Dry Salvages’ in structure and style parodistic of the quartets that preceded it. This proposal took off from an idea of Hugh Kenner’s, and any theory with two such exceptionally able sponsors needs treating with respect. The element of likelihood in this one derives from the way it locates Eliot’s work within that ‘Age of Criticism’ which Modernism helped to inaugurate ...

Being all right, and being wrong

Barbara Everett, 12 July 1990

Miscellaneous Verdicts: Writings on Writers 1946-1989 
by Anthony Powell.
Heinemann, 501 pp., £20, May 1990, 9780434599288
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Haydn and the Valve Trumpet 
by Craig Raine.
Faber, 498 pp., £20, June 1990, 0 571 15084 5
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... Men of different generations and presumably social worlds, Anthony Powell and Craig Raine aren’t much alike as writers. But the novelist’s Miscellaneous Verdicts and the poet’s Haydn and the Valve Trumpet are both very good, solid selections of occasional writing. The five hundred pages to which they both run are mainly literary journalism, with some illuminating essays on the social-historical from Powell, and vivid side-glances at painters and painting from Raine ...

Saint Shakespeare

Barbara Everett, 19 August 2010

... Late 16th-century England had no very great portrait painters, but at least one of its dramatists created a gallery of images – principally through his characters – at once brilliant and hard to forget. Hamlet and Lear can haunt the mind in a way that eclipses even the magnificent faces of Dürer and Titian. Shakespeare in fact embodies in his work a great change in 16th-century culture ...

Impersonality

Barbara Everett, 10 November 1988

A Sinking Island: The Modern English Writers 
by Hugh Kenner.
Barrie and Jenkins, 290 pp., £16.95, September 1988, 0 7126 2197 0
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... One day a long while ago Philip Larkin dropped a remark in passing about the difficulties of his current private life. He made it in the form of a jokey generalisation about the impossibility of relations between men and women, and added that the women ought really to marry each other, but that would be wrong, wouldn’t it? I forgot the remark for over thirty years until I bumped into it as an observation by one of the characters in Kingsley Amis’s latest novel, Difficulties with girls ...

Poetry and Christianity

Barbara Everett, 4 February 1982

Three for Water-Music 
by Donald Davie.
Carcanet, 69 pp., £2.95, July 1981, 0 85635 363 9
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The New Oxford Book of Christian Verse 
edited by Donald Davie.
Oxford, 319 pp., £7.95, September 1981, 0 19 213426 4
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... Water-Music’ makes in itself a fine concept, through the delicate difference of its components, water being transparent though sometimes audible, music being always audible and always transparent; together they would make a good Symbolist image for religious art, if only Symbolism had believed in religion. But the thing the concept is based on is not now experienced much in reality ...

Shakespeare and the Elizabethan Sonnet

Barbara Everett: The Sonnets, 8 May 2008

... If we speak of ‘Shakespeare’s Sonnets’, we mean a collection with this name first published in 1609, when Shakespeare was 45 and most of his plays had been staged; he died only seven years later. The 1609 text is the only authentic source for all the editions of Shakespeare’s Sonnets published since. So much is problematic about this first edition that it is best to start off with simplicities ...

Distraction v. Attraction

Barbara Everett: Ashbery, Larkin and Eliot, 27 June 2002

... This essay, in an earlier version, given as a paper at the conference on ‘Something We Have that They Don’t: Anglo-American Poetic Relations since the War’, organised by Mark Ford and Steve Clark under the aegis of the University of London. Few 20th-century events, even in literary history alone, were at once important and relatively harmless ...

Unwritten Masterpiece

Barbara Everett: Dryden’s ‘Hamlet’, 4 January 2001

... Dryden of course neither wrote nor adapted a Hamlet. But sometimes negatives, or questions, can say as much as positives. And Dryden is perhaps an odder, a more involved figure than might be surmised from his enormous productivity – from his energy, his directness, his mass and variety of achievement. This first of our great professional poets may have understood very fully the oxymoron in that phrase, ‘professional poet’: may have known, even beyond the withdrawals of his own temperament, how many silences went into being so formidably articulate ...

A Lethal Fall

Barbara Everett: Larkin and Chandler, 11 May 2006

... Philip Larkin gave the name High Windows to what proved to be his last collection of verse (published in 1974, 11 years before he died). The phrase had been used as the title of one of the poems included, and also occurs at the poem’s end: the thought of high windows: The sun-comprehending glass, And beyond it, the deep blue air, that shows Nothing, and is nowhere, and is endless ...

Making and Breaking in Shakespeare’s Romances

Barbara Everett: The Late Plays, 22 March 2007

... Jacobean England had its own royal catastrophe when, in 1612, the heir to the throne, Prince Henry, died of typhoid at the age of 18. It even had its lost princess when, in the next year, his sister Elizabeth, afterwards known as the Queen of Hearts, married Frederick V, the Elector Palatine, and disappeared into a long and fairly inglorious future ...

Somebody reading

Barbara Everett, 21 June 1984

The Odes of Keats 
by Helen Vendler.
Harvard, 330 pp., £15.70, February 1984, 0 674 63075 0
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... late flowers. In literary terms, this is the country of Betjeman’s A Few Late Chrysanthemums, or Barbara Pym’s A Few Green Leaves. The haphazard, that is to say, is a part of the literary. Something in Helen Vendler’s image of the poem collapses with the removal of her conjectures about the poet’s conscious change: Keats becomes again what in a sense ...

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