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Five Poems

Jamie McKendrick, 4 April 2002

... For Now I’m up in my watchtower, keeping watch over the beasts of the field, now few enough, the fowls of the air and the crooked ways of men, through binoculars, when the doorbell rings like a tinkling cymbal. Half-dressed, I bound downstairs and find two women who smile at me and ask me what I think of the Bible’s predictions for the future? Myself, I think it’s safer to predict the past and start to intone: Sufficient unto the day are the evils thereof ...

Three Poems

Jamie McKendrick, 5 October 2006

... VocationsRosary, pillar, garden, assumption, solitude:the five Marías you and your sisters make,distinguished by the vocations of the Virgin.Amongst you all resemblance hidesin posture, gesture, hand or voicelike a vein of dusky mauve –tint of the five figs that Frederic Amat,the Catalan artist as a young man,at home with colour and conjugations,slyly portrayed the group of you as– now hung among the oak-framed monochrome engravingsshowing the Napoleonic light infantryin a series of peninsular engagements ...

Four Poems

Valerio Magrelli, translated by Jamie McKendrick, 23 March 2006

... Summertime, like the cinemas, I shut up shop. Thought flies off elsewhere and evaporates. Billboards write white, the air’s warm, the table weighted with fruit. * The moonlight is a work of art, a substance first outlined then polished till it’s flint stone, mineral flame, but flame that’s enfeebled, dead, like grass grown in the dark, a pale, ritual vetch whose glow has the cold submerged phosphorescence of acetylene ...

Two Jackals on a Leash

Jamie McKendrick: Eugenio Montale, 1 July 1999

Eugenio Montale: Collected Poems 1920-54 
translated by Jonathan Galassi.
Carcanet, 626 pp., £29, November 1998, 1 85754 425 0
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... The entomologist Henri Fabre tells how the cicada’s song is produced by its ‘musical thighs’ and how in Provençal folklore the source of the sound is thought to be the insect’s ‘mirrors’, although he points out that this ‘dry membrane coloured like a soap bubble’ actually dampens the sound. In Provence a singer out of breath or a poet without inspiration is said to have broken mirrors ...

Beyond the Human

Jamie McKendrick: Dante’s Paradiso, 26 March 2009

Paradiso 
by Dante, translated by Robin Kirkpatrick.
Penguin, 480 pp., £12.99, October 2007, 978 0 14 044897 9
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Paradiso 
by Dante, translated by Robert Hollander and Jean Hollander.
Anchor, 915 pp., $19.95, September 2008, 978 1 4000 3115 3
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... What do humans do in heaven? Not too much, though not too little, according to St Augustine, who foresees ‘leisure for the praises of God’ with ‘no inactivity of idleness, and yet no toil constrained by want’. But eternity is a fair stretch: over millennia, any activity might begin to pall. The 19th-century Roman dialect poet Giuseppe Gioacchino Belli claims in his sonnet ‘Er paradiso’:                    in paradiso Nun perdi tempo co ggnisun lavoro: Nun ce trovi antro che vviolini, riso E ppandescèlo                     in heaven you don’t waste time with any work: there’s nothing but violins, laughter and heaven’s bread For Belli’s Roman worker, heaven mainly means not having to graft, and there’s the bonus of free food – a cross between communion wafers and panettone, his ‘ppandescèlo’ probably a nod to the ‘pan de li angeli’ in Dante’s Paradiso ...

The Road to Inver

Tom Paulin, 25 September 2003

... for Xon de Ros and Jamie McKendrick I left a village called Tempo oh maybe an hour back and now I’m driving to Inver in an old beat-up gunked Toyota I’ve borrowed from a mate in Belfast (there was a poet down south who blessed all the new Toyotas in Ireland – everyone else was driving in circles but he ...

Imagining the Suburbs

Stan Smith, 9 January 1992

Common Knowledge 
by John Burnside.
Secker, 62 pp., £6, April 1991, 0 436 20037 6
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The Son of the Duke of Nowhere 
by Philip Gross.
Faber, 57 pp., £4.99, April 1991, 0 571 16140 5
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Bridge Passages 
by George Szirtes.
Oxford, 63 pp., £5.99, March 1991, 0 19 282821 5
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Time Zones 
by Fleur Adcock.
Oxford, 54 pp., £5.99, March 1991, 0 19 282831 2
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Selected Poems 
by Fleur Adcock.
Oxford, 125 pp., £6.99, March 1991, 0 19 558100 8
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Spilt Milk 
by Sarah Maguire.
Secker, 50 pp., £6, April 1991, 0 436 27095 1
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The Sirocco Room 
by Jamie McKendrick.
Oxford, 56 pp., £5.99, March 1991, 0 19 282820 7
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Householder 
by Gerard Woodward.
Chatto, 80 pp., £5.99, April 1991, 0 7011 3758 4
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... sensing of ends (‘all bone’) is reproduced in the final poem, with its fishy pun on ‘Fin’. Jamie McKendrick, Liverpool-born, writes, among other things, of the Mezzogiorno, but also of fossils exiled in a quarry which was once an ocean, displaced at last by ‘the great earth movers’ which excavate them for plasterer’s dust; of the sirocco ...

Someone Else’s

Matthew Reynolds: Translating Cesare Pavese, 6 October 2005

Disaffections: Complete Poems 1930-50 
by Cesare Pavese, translated by Geoffrey Brock.
Carcanet, 370 pp., £14.95, April 2004, 1 85754 738 1
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The Faber Book of 20th-Century Italian Poems 
edited by Jamie McKendrick.
Faber, 167 pp., £12.99, June 2004, 0 571 19700 0
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... are really the sound of his displacement. If he had not been away he would not hear them. One of Jamie McKendrick’s aims in editing The Faber Book of 20th-Century Italian Poetry was, he says, to show how his chosen poems ‘argue with or make reference to other poems or poets’; and the sensible selection from Pavese does give a rough sense of where ...

The Beautiful Micòl

Dan Jacobson: Giorgio Bassani, 22 May 2008

The Garden of the Finzi-Continis 
by Giorgio Bassani, translated by Jamie McKendrick.
Penguin, 256 pp., £9.99, February 2007, 978 0 14 118836 2
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... As a novelist Giorgio Bassani is both allusive and elusive. Allusive, because he makes a habit of writing as if all the objects of his attention, from the topography of Ferrara, his hometown in northern Italy, to the names of minor characters in his tales, are bound to be as resonant to his readers as they are to himself. Elusive, because the sober, distancing tone of his prose seems to be at pains to avoid intimacy both with his readers and the characters whose lives he is recording ...

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