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Missing Frogs

Christopher Middleton, 9 July 1992

... Little frogs why don’t I hear you any more? This is your time of the year. It was your custom to croak. All through the night, the throb. Spellbound, repetitive, too, I was in the house, enslaved. A frog should croak in deep water. Your creek was dry, you were frogs, not princes, I was never a slave. Where are your needling, primordial contradictions? I heard them ...

Dead Button: China Command Aircrew

Christopher Middleton, 2 October 1997

... Now the dead button does not stick, Where should we put it? The rock face We hit, propellers feathering, off the map, Provided our skeletons, but first Sorrow, deep, no news, a lacuna cut out In the air. Twenty-six I was, ships below. Our bombs away we headed for home. No home. Told it was under attack, we Deviated, where to, beneath us brown Rice-paddies, we supposed, then up Soaring toward those mountain temples Ancient painters faintly inked in ...

People in Kansas, 1910

Christopher Middleton, 5 June 1980

... 1 Now they stand quite still on level doorsteps, Outside the Drug Store and the Post Office. A white sky, two buildings underneath it, Outside the buildings half a dozen people. Across the dust like dice the buildings rolled, Stopped under the white sky. Soon the people prised them open, clambered out. Here at last. Here, they said, is Dorrance. 2 Stiff, like effigies, almost, Made of language; speaking The people came to be real for one another ...


Günter Kunert, translated by Christopher Middleton, 3 September 1981

... Relatives with Latin names faces of hide and plume hands of leather and horn eyes like glass you can see through to the depth of evolution where the simple feelings live fear and longing old and dark shadows Your gaze comes back from there changed by the journey strange it looks at you as if you had no part in it now ...

Under the Flight Path

August Kleinzahler: Christopher Middleton, 19 May 2016

... Christopher Middleton​ hated New York. Among the things he particularly disliked, I suspect, is New York’s position as a cultural bazaar, where reputations are bought, sold and traded, with the attendant buzz of speculation. He was incapable of schmoozing, and his career suffered accordingly. New York’s greatest draw, people action and brute energy, would have been lost on him ...

Perfect and Serene Oddity

Michael Hofmann: The Strangeness of Robert Walser, 16 November 2006

Speaking to the Rose: Writings, 1912-32 
by Robert Walser, translated and edited by Christopher Middleton.
Nebraska, 128 pp., £9.99, November 2005, 0 8032 9833 1
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... as sly, as haunted. A cross between Stevie Smith and Beckett: a good-humoured, sweet Beckett.’ Christopher Middleton writes: ‘Well before the 1920s, the text for Walser is a non-thing, as much so as a Cubist guitar or Magritte’s apple (“Ceci n’est pas une pomme”).’* Other comparisons include the composer Satie, the painter Rousseau, the ...

On Hiroaki Sato

August Kleinzahler: Hiroaki Sato, 21 January 2016

... fascinating literature about the act and art of translation, often described metaphorically, as by Christopher Middleton: ‘The translator has to imagine his way on the tentacles of language through to the bedrock sea bottom of the imagination of his author.’ Some translators, like Middleton, are poets, most are ...


John Kerrigan, 2 April 1987

The Faber Book of Contemporary American Poetry 
edited by Helen Vendler.
Faber, 440 pp., £9.95, November 1986, 0 571 13945 0
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Selected Poems 
by John Ashbery.
Carcanet, 348 pp., £16.95, April 1986, 0 85635 666 2
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The Poetry Book Society Anthology 1986/87 
edited by Jonathan Barker.
Hutchinson, 94 pp., £4.95, November 1986, 0 09 165961 2
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Two Horse Wagon Going By 
by Christopher Middleton.
Carcanet, 143 pp., £5.95, October 1986, 0 85635 661 1
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... leaves England for America as, conceptually, nowhere. Emigrating to Texas in the early Sixties, Christopher Middleton seems to have projected such a dissolution. Among the ‘limestone belts’ and ‘miles of scrub’ he sought ‘to move once, / free, of himself, into some few things’. Without doubting the material persistence of creativity ...


Derek Mahon, 5 June 1980

by Christopher Middleton.
Carcanet, 120 pp., £3.95, February 1980, 0 85635 284 5
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The Strange Museum 
by Tom Paulin.
Faber, 51 pp., £3.50, March 1980, 9780571115112
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The Psalms with their Spoils 
by Jon Silkin.
Routledge, 74 pp., £2.95, April 1980, 0 7100 0497 4
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The Equal Skies 
by Norman MacCaig.
Chatto, 64 pp., £3.75, March 1980, 0 7011 2491 1
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Sibyls and Others 
by Ruth Fainlight.
Hutchinson, 141 pp., £5.95, March 1980, 0 09 141030 4
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... would be disingenuous of me to pretend that I have taken the full measure, or anything like it, of Middleton’s Carminalenia, an intensely difficult collection about as far removed from ‘mainstream’ English poetry as it’s possible to be and yet remain, in part at least, accessible. I say ‘in part at least’, but the fact is that ...

I’m here to be mad

Christopher Benfey: Robert Walser, 10 May 2018

Walks with Robert Walser 
by Carl Seelig, translated by Anne Posten.
New Directions, 127 pp., £11.99, May 2017, 978 0 8112 2139 9
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Girlfriends, Ghosts and Other Stories 
by Robert Walser, translated by Tom Whalen, Nicole Köngeter and Annette Wiesner.
NYRB, 181 pp., £9.99, October 2016, 978 1 68137 016 3
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... illness. Until recently, aside from a pioneering selection of stories assembled by the translator Christopher Middleton in 1982, his work has barely been available in English. But now, thanks to a steady accumulation of volumes from New York Review Books, and a gifted group of translators willing to wrestle with the often fiendish difficulties of his ...

Lyrics and Ironies

Christopher Ricks, 4 December 1986

The Alluring Problem: An Essay on Irony 
by D.J. Enright.
Oxford, 178 pp., £12.95, October 1986, 0 19 212253 3
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Czeslaw Milosz and the Insufficiency of Lyric 
by Donald Davie.
Cambridge, 76 pp., £15, September 1986, 0 521 32264 2
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... themselves than as furnishing the perfect polemical points de repère; over the years the poems of Christopher Middleton, of J.H. Prynne, and of C.H. Sisson, have all found themselves not so much constituting the grounds of Davie’s argument as figuring in it. But Milosz is too stubborn and faceted to be functionalised, even in the most high-minded ...

Making sense

Denis Donoghue, 4 October 1984

A Wave 
by John Ashbery.
Carcanet, 89 pp., £4.95, August 1984, 9780856355479
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Secret Narratives 
by Andrew Motion.
Salamander, 46 pp., £6, March 1983, 0 907540 29 5
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Liberty Tree 
by Tom Paulin.
Faber, 78 pp., £4, June 1983, 0 05 711302 5
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111 Poems 
by Christopher Middleton.
Carcanet, 185 pp., £5.95, April 1983, 0 85635 457 0
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New and Selected Poems 
by James Michie.
Chatto, 64 pp., £3.95, September 1983, 0 7011 2723 6
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By the Fisheries 
by Jeremy Reed.
Cape, 79 pp., £4, March 1984, 0 224 02154 0
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by George Mackay Brown.
Chatto, 48 pp., £3.95, September 1983, 0 7011 2736 8
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... historian really sees a pure narrative before him. III Poems is a generous selection from five of Christopher Middleton’s books of poetry: Torso 3 (1962), Nonsequences (1965), Our Flowers – Nice Bones (1969), The Lonely Suppers of W.V. Balloon (1975) and Carminalenia (1980). There are also 11 new poems. ‘Old Man, Looking South’ is slightly ...

Michael Hofmann reads his father’s book

Michael Hofmann, 25 June 1987

Our Conquest 
by Gert Hofmann, translated by Christopher Middleton.
Carcanet, 281 pp., £9.95, March 1987, 0 85635 687 5
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... After thirty years teaching German literature and writing radio plays, my father suddenly began to write fiction. Our Conquest was his fifth book in five years, and the second to be translated into English. (He has since published three others in Germany). The sense of the possessive in the title is objective: it is we who have been conquered. The book plays for roughly the first 24 hours of peace in a small town in Germany, on a Wednesday in May 1945; and yet, as we shall see, and as the translation has it, a little fortuitously, because the word is Ruhe (‘quiet’), ‘there’s never a moment’s peace in our town ...

Toss the monkey wrench

August Kleinzahler: Lee Harwood’s risky poems, 19 May 2005

Collected Poems 
by Lee Harwood.
Shearsman, 522 pp., £17.95, May 2004, 9780907562405
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... one by Ian Hamilton Finlay, David Jones’s The Tribune’s Visitation, an early collection by Christopher Middleton, and three by Lee Harwood. The publishing provenance of an outsider poet like Harwood can tell you a lot about his work: Fulcrum, Oasis Books, Pig Press, Galloping Dog, Paladin, Slow Dancer, North and South, Leafe ...

Breathing in Verse

Theodore Ziolkowski: A rich translation of Hölderlin, 23 September 2004

Poems and Fragments 
by Friedrich Hölderlin, translated by Michael Hamburger.
Anvil, 823 pp., £19.95, March 2004, 0 85646 360 4
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... accommodations: J.B. Leishman rendered many of the odes into graceful Alcaics and Asclepiads; Christopher Middleton and David Constantine, in contrast, resorted to looser paraphrases. Hamburger takes the more challenging route – with considerable success. The opening lines of ‘Bread and Wine’ catch the rhythm and flow of Hölderlin’s ...

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