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Offered to the Gods

Frank Kermode: Sacrifice

5 June 2008
Culture and Sacrifice: Ritual Death in Literature and Opera 
by Derek Hughes.
Cambridge, 313 pp., £45, October 2007, 978 0 521 86733 7
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... which it superficially resembles but which is less cautious in dealing with speculative prehistoric beginnings. Certain discriminations are established from the outset. Any close resemblance between Hughes’s method and the methods of Sir James Frazer or René Girard is explained and discounted. The mere thought of Frazer prompts unavoidable and dismissive allusions to George Eliot’s Casaubon and ...
20 March 1980
Poems 1962-1978 
by Derek​ Mahon.
Oxford, 117 pp., £5.75, November 1979, 0 19 211898 6
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The Echo Gate 
by Michael Longley.
Secker, 53 pp., £3, November 1979, 0 436 25680 0
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Poets from the North of Ireland 
edited by Frank Ormsby.
Blackstaff, 232 pp., £6.50, October 1979, 9780856402012
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... Derek Mahon’s Poems 1962 – 1978 includes most of his three earlier books, to which he has added a few uncollected poems and about 35 pages of new work. Readers will discover that poems with which they ...

The New Narrative

John Kerrigan

16 February 1984
The Oxford Book of Narrative Verse 
edited by Iona Opie and Peter Opie.
Oxford, 407 pp., £8.95, September 1983, 0 19 214131 7
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Time’s Oriel 
by Kevin Crossley-Holland.
Hutchinson, 61 pp., £4.95, August 1983, 0 09 153291 4
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On Gender and Writing 
edited by Michelene Wandor.
Pandora, 166 pp., £3.95, September 1983, 0 86358 021 1
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Stone, Paper, Knife 
by Marge Piercy.
Pandora, 144 pp., £3.95, September 1983, 9780863580222
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The Achievement of Ted Hughes 
edited by Keith Sagar.
Manchester, 377 pp., £27.50, March 1983, 0 7190 0939 1
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Ted Hughes​ and Paul Muldoon 
Faber, £6.95, June 1983, 0 571 13090 9Show More
River 
by Ted Hughes and Peter Keen.
Faber, 128 pp., £10, September 1983, 0 571 13088 7
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Quoof 
by Paul Muldoon.
Faber, 64 pp., £4, September 1983, 0 571 13117 4
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... of her integrity that a text like ‘Being left’ – so immediate, so personal in resonance – should be continuous in its concerns with her most ambitiously prophetic narrative. To place Ted Hughes among the Narrative Poets may seem merely paradoxical. Yet, compared with his creative peers – Larkin, Heaney, or the greatest ‘maker’ of his generation Geoffrey Hill, with his confessedly ...

Long Goodbye

Derek​ Mahon

20 November 1980
Why Brownlee left 
by Paul Muldoon.
Faber, 48 pp., £3, September 1980, 0 571 11592 6
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Poems 1956-1973 
by Thomas Kinsella.
Dolmen, 192 pp., £7.50, September 1980, 0 85105 365 3
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Constantly Singing 
by James Simmons.
Blackstaff, 90 pp., £3.95, June 1980, 0 85640 217 6
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A Part of Speech 
by Joseph Brodsky.
Oxford, 151 pp., £4.95, September 1980, 0 19 211939 7
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Collected poems 1931-1974 
by Lawrence Durrell.
Faber, 350 pp., £9, September 1980, 0 571 18009 4
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... with Brownlee, imagines cognate figures leading the sort of lives one would expect – drinking rum on a verandah in Brazil, for example. No great train-robbers are mentioned by name, but Howard Hughes: The Hidden Years is a key text. Whimsy? Not at all. Again, we must read between the lines, where the real poems are taking place. Brazil suggests Hy-Brasil, the Celtic Hesperides, Atlantis and ...

Jihad

James Wood

5 August 1993
TheNew Poetry 
edited by Michael Hulse, David Kennedy and David Morley.
Bloodaxe, 352 pp., £25, May 1993, 1 85224 244 2
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Who Whispered Near Me 
by Killarney Clary.
Bloodaxe, 64 pp., £5.95, February 1993, 1 85224 149 7
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Sunset Grill 
by Anne Rouse.
Bloodaxe, 64 pp., £5.95, March 1993, 1 85224 219 1
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Half Moon Bay 
by Paul Mills.
Carcanet, 95 pp., £6.95, February 1993, 9781857540000
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Shoah 
by Harry Smart.
Faber, 74 pp., £5.99, April 1993, 0 571 16793 4
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The Autonomous Region 
by Kathleen Jamie.
Bloodaxe, 79 pp., £7.95, March 1993, 9781852241735
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Collected Poems 
by F.T. Prince.
Carcanet, 319 pp., £25, March 1993, 1 85754 030 1
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Stirring Stuff 
by Selwyn Pritchard.
Sinclair-Stevenson, 145 pp., £8.99, April 1993, 9781856193085
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News from the Brighton Front 
by Nicki Jackowska.
Sinclair-Stevenson, 86 pp., £7.99, April 1993, 1 85619 306 3
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Translations from the Natural World 
by Les Murray.
Carcanet, 67 pp., £6.95, March 1993, 1 85754 005 0
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... like Paul Durcan and Geoff Hattersley, and praises Ian McMillan’s ‘unique combination of stand-up comedy and surrealism’. But these, relatively, are slight talents. McMillan’s poem ‘Ted Hughes is Elvis Presley’ is a fantasy in which Hughes, writing a poem, becomes a reincarnated Presley and starts singing to the foxes. It ends with a reference to Hughes’s poem ‘Pike’: Ted, three ...
30 December 1982
The Penguin Book of Contemporary British Poetry 
edited by Blake Morrison and Andrew Motion.
Penguin, 208 pp., £1.95, October 1982, 0 14 042283 8
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The Rattle Bag 
edited by Seamus Heaney and Ted Hughes.
Faber, 498 pp., £10, October 1982, 0 571 11966 2
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... Alvarez contrasted the horses of Larkin’s poem ‘At Grass’ (‘social creatures of fashionable race meetings [who] ... belong to the world of the RSPCA’) with the ‘urgent’ horses of Ted Hughes’s ‘A Dream of Horses’, a poem ‘unquestionably about something’. Linked in this way, the poems make each other look slightly ridiculous – their titles alone adequately inform us what they ...

Diary

Tobias Jones: Campaigning at the Ministry of Sound

6 March 1997
... night – manic, toxic dancing. In one campaign last autumn, the Labour Party even sent Prospective Parliamentary Candidates into the strobes, to question, canvass and press the sweaty flesh. Simon Hughes of the Liberal Democrats, the local MP for Southwark and Bermondsey, regularly boasts of his clubbing credentials, gasping for credibility each time he does so. This combination of the carefree and ...

Paradise Lost

Nicholas Everett

11 July 1991
Omeros 
by Derek​ Walcott.
Faber, 325 pp., £17.50, September 1990, 0 571 16070 0
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Collected Poems 
by Norman MacCaig.
Chatto, 456 pp., £18, September 1990, 0 7011 3713 4
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The Mail from Anywhere 
by Brad Leithauser.
Oxford, 55 pp., £5.95, September 1990, 0 19 282779 0
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An Elegy for the Galosherman: New and Selected Poems 
by Matt Simpson.
Bloodaxe, 128 pp., £6.95, October 1990, 1 85224 103 9
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... prompt expiry and may even keep it enduringly fresh. Furthermore, if a poem can be paraphrased, it will fail to reflect the radically ‘meaningless’, indeterminate nature of our experience. Derek Walcott’s poems, informed and invigorated as many them are by a coherent ideology, don’t conform to this negative aesthetic. Their ideology, however, is a cultural version of it. Until recently ...

His Peach Stone

Christopher Tayler: J.G. Farrell

2 December 2010
J.G. Farrell in His Own Words: Selected Letters and Diaries 
edited by Lavinia Greacen.
Cork, 464 pp., €19.95, September 2010, 978 1 85918 476 9
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... ellipses (‘He stopped and listened … but no, he had been mistaken’) and old-fashioned time indicators such as ‘presently’ (lifted, according to his friend John Spurling, from Richard Hughes). And he renders his characters’ inner voices oddly, sometimes putting thoughts in quotation marks, sometimes using free indirect style and sometimes forgetting which of the two he’s doing. From ...

Colloquially Speaking

Patrick McGuinness: Poetry from Britain and Ireland after 1945

1 April 1999
The Penguin Book of Poetry from Britain and Ireland since 1945 
edited by Simon Armitage and Robert Crawford.
Viking, 480 pp., £10.99, September 1998, 0 670 86829 9
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The Firebox: Poetry from Britain and Ireland after 1945 
edited by Sean O’Brien.
Picador, 534 pp., £16.99, October 1998, 0 330 36918 0
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... untaken, midway through the second half of the century, a rich and spacious alternative in a world of sights set lower and horizons diminished. There were, and still are, alternatives to Larkin. Ted Hughes and Sylvia Plath, Seamus Heaney and Tony Harrison are powerfully present in these books, as are a number of the poets Motion and Morrison published in Contemporary British Poetry: Douglas Dunn, Anne ...
20 November 1980
Selected Poems 1956-1975 
by Seamus Heaney.
Faber, 136 pp., £3.95, October 1980, 0 571 11644 2
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Preoccupations: Selected Prose 1968-1978 
by Seamus Heaney.
Faber, 224 pp., £7.95, October 1980, 0 571 11638 8
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... Eliot, not Yeats, was the most significant poet of our youth. We bitterly remember the book-banning Ireland of the Twenties through to the Fifties, and respond to the fine anger in the poems of Derek Mahon, Heaney’s most talented Ulster contemporary, when, in poems like ‘Glengormley’ and ‘Ecclesiastes’, he reminds us that the awful Ulster of our youth is far from dead. With these ...
18 September 1980
... as ‘D. H. Lawrence and his Influence on Modern Society’ and ‘D. H. Lawrence and his Influence on the Development of the Novel’. Thom Gunn, the Anglo-American poet, was also there; and so was Derek Walcott from the West Indies. Participating in our cogitations was an audience of several hundred who had paid for the privilege of attending (and had thus presumably relieved some of the strain on ...

Did she go willingly?

Marina Warner: Helen of Troy

7 October 2010
Helen of Troy: From Homer to Hollywood 
by Laurie Maguire.
Wiley-Blackwell, 280 pp., £55, April 2009, 978 1 4051 2634 2
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... to Hollywood, as her subtitle has it. Since historians can find no trace of the real Helen on a coin, a stone or in a factual document, the search for her leads only to dreams and fantasies. Bettany Hughes attempted an archaeological quest in her Helen of Troy (2005), but was left wistfully hoping that Helen’s tomb might be discovered one day. Maguire finds traces of Helen of Troy everywhere, far ...

Hand and Foot

John Kerrigan: Seamus Heaney

27 May 1999
Opened Ground: Poems 1966-96 
by Seamus Heaney.
Faber, 478 pp., £20, September 1998, 0 571 19492 3
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The Poetry of Seamus Heaney: A Critical Study 
by Neil Corcoran.
Faber, 276 pp., £9.99, September 1998, 0 571 17747 6
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Seamus Heaney 
by Helen Vendler.
HarperCollins, 188 pp., £15.99, November 1998, 0 00 255856 4
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... can help you rise, that weights can lift each other in a tentative balance, was advanced both in Heaney’s contribution to Homage to Robert Frost (which he published in 1997 with Joseph Brodsky and Derek Walcott) and in such poems as ‘Weighing In’ and ‘The Swing’ (an Ulster version of Frost’s ‘Birches’) in The Spirit Level (1996), the most recent book of his excerpted for Opened Ground ...

Gaelic Gloom

Colm Tóibín: Brian Moore

10 August 2000
Brian Moore: The Chameleon Novelist 
by Denis Sampson.
Marino, 344 pp., IR£20, October 1998, 1 86023 078 4
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... strokes. Some of Mary Dunne’s perceptions as she moves around New York are crude and hackneyed. So, too, in his later novels about women, The Doctor’s Wife (1976) and The Temptation of Eileen Hughes (1981), the social detail, the dialogue and even the characters are brisk, with a strange lack of nuance and shadow. Sheila, the doctor’s wife, has various conversations with her husband which read ...

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