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... When wing to wing, feather by feather, the rooks were piecing night together, I took the ring the iron-lipped iron-lidded lion gripped and tapped the call-sign on his hide. He knew me, nodded, moved aside, and as the light fell through the door I walked into your head once more. I could distinguish, layer by layer, each constituent of the air: vellum and beeswax; apple, oak, and elm gone up in years of smoke; tanned pastry, ghosts of roasted meat; the breath of oxlips, wintersweet, jasmine, and Stanley Spencer’s tall Corinthian hyacinths on the wall ...

From the Life

Jon Stallworthy, 28 May 1992

... All this takes place on a hilly island in the Mediterranean,’ Picasso said. ‘Like Crete. That’s where the minotaurs live, along the coast. They’re the rich Seigneurs of the island. They know they’re monsters and they live, like dandies and dilettantes everywhere, the kind of existence that reeks of decadence in houses filled with works of art by the most fashionable painters and sculptors ...

The Voice from the Bridge

Jon Stallworthy, 7 February 1991

... For Gail and Zellman Warhaft and in memory of Sasha Warhaft 1985-1988 All I can hope is that the voice of Kavadias may be heard, however faintly, from the bridge on a dark night somewhere in the Indian Ocean. Gail Holst Warhaft, translator: The Collected Poems of Nikos Kavadias 1 Tonight, as the tropic day drops its sail and flocks of marabou are flying west, I’m needled by a need to have it out, the cancerous secret in my chest ...

The Anzac Sonata

Jon Stallworthy, 19 November 1981

... For Ramsay Howie in memory of Bill Howie, 1892-1915 and Peggy Howie. 1908-1980 Another time,   another place. Glossy as a conker   in its cushioned case. Lift and tighten   the horsehair bow, shuttle rosin   to and fro. Hold the note   there, that first note jubilant from   the fiddle’s throat. I She remembered the singing. No voice that she knew and no words, but a cadence, the speech of a heart with cause to rejoice ...

The Nutcracker

Jon Stallworthy, 17 September 1987

... for Isaiah Berlin My story? Yes, I got my story though not the one I was assigned. It was a Voyage of Discovery all right, but of another kind. The latest Russian Revolution was no sooner known than it– whoosh– un- corked Moscow like shaken champagne, filled Red Square to the brim again with chanting thousands. When Apollo appeared on the balcony, they let out a shout heard miles away ...

A Life of Henry Reed

Jon Stallworthy, 12 September 1991

... The author of ‘Naming of Parts’, probably the most anthologised English poem of the Second War, has too often been held to be that and that only. Like Julian Grenfell, author of ‘Into Battle’, he is seen as the saddest freak of the literary fairground: the one-poem poet. The publication of his collected poems will give the lie to that gross misperception ...

Untouched by Eliot

Denis Donoghue: Jon Stallworthy, 4 March 1999

Rounding the Horn: Collected Poems 
by Jon Stallworthy.
Carcanet, 247 pp., £14.95, September 1998, 1 85754 163 4
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... legitimate poems make a public display of the illegitimate offspring of his apprentice years?’ Jon Stallworthy asks in the afterword to Singing School. His short answer is: ‘because, to the best of my knowledge, no one else has done so, and the schooling of poets seems a potentially rewarding subject.’ The longer answer is that ‘in the early ...

Part and Pasture

Frank Kermode, 5 December 1991

Collected Poems 
by Henry Reed, edited with an introduction by Jon Stallworthy.
Oxford, 166 pp., £20, October 1991, 0 19 212298 3
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... pointing out that Thoreau’s crown of Thoreaus was remembering happier things. (He liked puns: Stallworthy points out that the epigraph to ‘Lessons of the War’ – vixi puellis nuper idoneuslet militavi non sine gloria – substitutes puellis, ‘girls’, for Horace’s duellis, ‘wars’. This is a better pun than the Seattle ones, especially as it ...

Players, please

Jonathan Bate, 6 December 1984

The Oxford Book of War Poetry 
edited by Jon Stallworthy.
Oxford, 358 pp., £9.50, September 1984, 0 19 214125 2
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Secret Destinations 
by Charles Causley.
Macmillan, 69 pp., £7.95, September 1984, 0 333 38268 4
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Fast Forward 
by Peter Porter.
Oxford, 64 pp., £4.50, October 1984, 0 19 211967 2
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Dark Glasses 
by Blake Morrison.
Chatto, 71 pp., £3.95, October 1984, 0 7011 2875 5
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... war poets. Was ‘the war to end all wars’ also the war to end all war poetry? The best part of Jon Stallworthy’s introduction to his Oxford Book of War Poetry is a discussion of the chivalric ideal in the British public school classes of the 19th century. ‘Honour the charge’ makes the cavalrymen of the Light Brigade into Arthurian ...

Smartened Up

Ian Hamilton, 9 March 1995

Louis MacNeice: A Biography 
by Jon Stallworthy.
Faber, 538 pp., £25, February 1995, 0 571 16019 0
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... himself too well? Another reason for the delay in preparing a MacNeice Life might be deduced from Jon Stallworthy’s Introduction to the book we are now offered: In 1976, as an editor of the Clarendon Press, it was my good fortune to oversee the publication of Professor E.R. Dodds’s autobiography, Missing Persons. Acquaintance ripened into friendship ...

Fame at last

Elaine Showalter, 7 November 1991

Anne Sexton: A Biography 
by Diane Wood Middlebrook.
Virago, 488 pp., £20, November 1991, 1 85381 406 7
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... you are’. Yet even under these conditions, it was hard to resist the force of her personality. Jon Stallworthy had called her ‘the New England Nefertiti’. Anne upstaged Max again that night at the reading, making an entrance slowly from the back of the room in a long red dress, diamond rings flashing on her bony fingers as she chain-smoked through ...
Selected Literary Criticism of Louis MacNeice 
edited by Alan Heuser.
Oxford, 279 pp., £19.50, March 1987, 0 19 818573 1
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... be righted by my choice. But I have seen no evidence that the move to England amounted to exile. (Jon Stallworthy is writing the Life of MacNeice and may have evidence in hand.) After Sherborne, MacNeice went to Marlborough, well enough described in his unfinished and posthumously published autobiography, The strings are false (1965). One of MacNeice’s ...

Charmed Life

John Bayley, 15 September 1983

The Russian Revolutionary Novel: Turgenev to Pasternak 
by Richard Freeborn.
Cambridge, 256 pp., £27.50, January 1983, 0 521 24442 0
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Boris Pasternak: His Life and Art 
by Guy de Mallac.
Souvenir, 450 pp., £14.95, February 1983, 0 285 62558 6
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Pasternak: A Biography 
by Ronald Hingley.
Weidenfeld, 294 pp., £12.95, August 1983, 9780297782070
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Selected Poems 
by Boris Pasternak, translated by Jon Stallworthy and Peter France.
Allen Lane, 160 pp., £7.50, February 1983, 0 7139 1497 1
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Poets of Modern Russia 
by Peter France.
Cambridge, 240 pp., £20, February 1983, 0 521 23490 5
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Russian Literature since the Revolution 
by Edward Brown.
Harvard, 413 pp., £20, December 1982, 0 674 78203 8
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... it strange’, as the Formalists would say, is conveyed in the selection of poems translated by Jon Stallworthy and Peter France, and in France’s excellent study Poets of Modern Russia, which besides that on Pasternak contains informative essays on Blok, Akhmatova, Mandelstam, Tsvetaeva, Mayakovsky, and the poets of today. A particularly admirable ...

Yeats and Violence

Michael Wood: On ‘Nineteen Hundred and Nineteen’, 14 August 2008

... member of that large and distinguished family. The early drafts of ‘The Second Coming’, as Jon Stallworthy tells us, mention Germans and Russia; but when the poem was published these nationals and this nation were gone, and the poem, Terence Brown says, ‘seemed to bear more on Irish affairs than on the general European crisis’. But of course ...

Nonetheless

John Bayley, 2 February 1989

The Lost Voices of World War One: An International Anthology of Writers, Poets and Playwrights 
edited by Tim Cross.
Bloomsbury, 406 pp., £12.95, November 1988, 0 7475 0276 5
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Poems 
by Paul Celan, translated by Michael Hamburger.
Anvil, 350 pp., £15.95, January 1989, 0 85646 198 9
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Flights of Passage: Reflections of a World War Two Aviator 
by Samuel Hynes.
Bloomsbury, 270 pp., £13.95, November 1988, 0 7475 0333 8
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... as alive as Sorley, Ledwidge, and their other English opposite numbers admirably presented by Jon Stallworthy. Ian Higgins has done an equally good job for the young Frenchmen or Belgians – Gaston de Ruyter, Jean de La Ville de Mirmont, Marc de Larreguy de Civrieux – and V. Nersessian gives selections from the work of young Armenians killed in ...

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