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Three Poems

Michael Hofmann, 10 February 1994

... my father, who hasn’t read aloud since his ‘event’. Darkness falls outside. Inside too. Ted Hughes is in the small audience, and afterwards asks my father whether he ever, like an Inuit, dreamed of his own defeat and death. My father, who’s heard some questions, but never anything like this, doesn’t know Ted ...

Homage to the Provinces

Michael Wood, 28 May 1992

Barcelona 
by Robert Hughes.
Harvill, 575 pp., £20, May 1992, 0 00 272078 7
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Barcelonas 
by Manuel Vazquez Montalban, translated by Andrew Robinson.
Verso, 210 pp., £17.95, May 1992, 0 86091 353 8
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Cities of Spain 
by David Gilmour.
Murray, 214 pp., £17.95, March 1992, 0 7195 4833 0
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Red City, Blue Period: Social Movements in Picasso’s Barcelona 
by Temma Kaplan.
California, 266 pp., $30, April 1992, 0 520 07507 2
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... associates it with solidarity. ‘The man of seny,’ we learn from a Catalan writer quoted by Hughes, ‘renounces neither salvation nor experience, and is always trying to set up a fruitful integration between both opposed, warring extremes.’ Sounds altogether reasonable, but not as if it needs a special word. What the concept actually seems to do is ...

On Michael O’Brien

August Kleinzahler: Michael O’Brien, 16 February 2017

... few​ significant American poets called as little attention to themselves in their lifetimes as Michael O’Brien, who died last November at the age of 77. Much as with Lorine Niedecker – whose ‘silences’, he wrote, ‘derive from an intellectual conviction that art, like science, demands total concentration on the object of attention’ – his ...

A to Z

Ian Hamilton: Schmidt’s List, 4 March 1999

Lives of the Poets 
by Michael Schmidt.
Weidenfeld, 960 pp., £22, October 1998, 0 297 84014 2
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A Critical Difference: T.S. Eliot and John Middleton Murry in English Literary Criticism, 1919-28 
by David Goldie.
Oxford, 232 pp., £35, October 1998, 0 19 812379 5
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... Yalden, Hammond, Stepney, Fenton (Elijah) and Hughes (John): where are you now? Ten of the 52 poets represented in Samuel Johnson’s Lives of the Poets fail to make an appearance in the Oxford Companion to English Literature. On its own, of course, this doesn’t prove a thing. At the same time I would guess that these poets are known about today – if they are known about today – simply because they were once biographised by Dr Johnson ...

Sorrows of a Polygamist

Mark Ford: Ted Hughes in His Cage, 17 March 2016

Ted HughesThe Unauthorised Life 
by Jonathan Bate.
William Collins, 662 pp., £30, October 2015, 978 0 00 811822 8
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... So much​ in the life and work of Ted Hughes was weird and transgressive that even now, 18 years after his death, it is hard to feel confident that his actions and beliefs and literary achievement can be judiciously and authoritatively assessed. For a start, he wrote and published at such a rate: Jonathan Bate’s bibliographic tally of Hughes’s books runs to more than seventy items, while the various Hughes archives contain nearly a hundred thousand pages of manuscript material ...

Going underground

Elaine Showalter, 12 May 1994

The Silent Woman: Sylvia Plath and Ted Hughes 
by Janet Malcolm.
Knopf, 208 pp., $23, April 1994, 0 679 43158 6
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... the publication in the New Yorker last August of Janet Malcolm’s study of Sylvia Plath and Ted Hughes was an exception. Brilliantly packaged with reprints of the Plath poems which the New Yorker had originally published, the issue was a sell-out on both sides of the Atlantic, and for weeks no dinner party from Hampstead to the Hamptons was complete without ...

Tatchell’s Testament

Anne Sofer, 22 December 1983

The Battle for Bermondsey 
by Peter Tatchell.
Heretic Books, 170 pp., £7.95, October 1983, 0 946097 11 9
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... only playing bit-parts in the story, and this includes the victor of the by-election, Simon Hughes, who makes his one-line appearance on page 148. ‘Simon Hughes is an average Liberal candidate with all the political deficiencies this implies.’ For most of Tatchell’s anticipated audience his will appear adequate ...

To Live like a Bird

Mark Rudman, 1 June 2000

Approximately Nowhere 
by Michael Hofmann.
Faber, 77 pp., £7.99, April 1999, 0 571 19524 5
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... Michael Hofmann’s poetry is a lament for a lost world. Some years ago, in an article on Frank O’Hara, he talked about New York no longer being the thrilling place it had been in the days when O’Hara and the gang could go downtown to the Blue Note and hear John Coltrane or uptown to hear Billie Holiday. This kind of nostalgia can be tiresome: better for each generation to invent a new idea of the new – to enlarge the temple ...

I’m not an actress

Michael Newton: Ava Gardner, 7 September 2006

Ava Gardner 
by Lee Server.
Bloomsbury, 551 pp., £20, April 2006, 0 7475 6547 3
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... Taj Mahal of beauty’. Or she ‘was like an animal, Ava. The sex thing.’ When Howard Hughes suggested that after her three previous marriages, he ought really to have a turn, she replied: ‘You make it sound like I’m a pony ride at the county fair.’ The posters for The Barefoot Contessa (1954) advertised her as ‘The World’s Most ...

Fading Out

John Redmond, 2 November 1995

The Ghost Orchid 
by Michael Longley.
Cape, 66 pp., £7, May 1995, 0 224 04112 6
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... land of transplanted urban dream kingdoms, a paradise for poets who do not wish to be disturbed. Michael Viney’s documentary, The Corner of the Eye, opens with a slow sweep across this landscape, a picture of distances fringed with purple and a few tawny cows nosing through the foreground, then switches to a little white cottage in the midst of it all, and ...

Something good

H. Stuart Hughes, 13 September 1990

All or Nothing: The Axis and the Holocaust 1941-1943 
by Jonathan Steinberg.
Routledge, 320 pp., £20, June 1990, 0 415 04757 9
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... French record leaves little reason for retrospective pride: in their Vichy France and the Jews, Michael Marrus and Robert Paxton have documented how after 1942 in the South-Eastern departments the Italian occupiers were obliged to fend off not only the Nazis’ round-up but that of the French police as well.) So much for the ‘main story’, the story of ...

Retrospective

Donald Davie, 2 February 1984

A World of Difference 
by Norman MacCaig.
Chatto, 64 pp., £3.95, June 1983, 0 7011 2693 0
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... as the currently accepted canon of excellence in post-1945 poetry: a canon consisting of Larkin, Hughes and Heaney. These three poets of the period have been most often treated to admiring essays both here and in the States, and it is these three who more than any of their contemporaries figure on the school and university syllabus. It may be said of course ...

At the Movies

Michael Wood: Scorsese, 16 November 2006

The Departed 
directed by Martin Scorsese.
October 2006
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... in his crime movies, and no family friendliness as in the Godfather films. No one suffers like Michael Corleone from the anxieties of extreme power (‘If history has taught us anything, it is that we can kill anyone’). Everyone, by implication, still wants to be a gangster, but the wish is insane and not just lawless. Scorsese doesn’t deny or moralise ...

On the Dickman Brothers

Stephanie Burt, 2 February 2017

... Hull. His loss isn’t the only topic in Matthew’s poems, or in the poems of his twin brother, Michael, but it is one for which both poets are known – widely known, in the US, as poets go. They have now been introduced to the UK in an unusually designed volume: Brother (Faber, £10.99) contains ten of Michael’s 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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... style of interesting poets like Peter Didsbury, John Ash, Pauline Stainer and one of the editors, Michael Hulse, is not particularly ‘democratic’, but playfully enigmatic and donnish. There is a tendency to think aloud with a somewhat creaky jauntiness, as if the poets were sharing secrets with their desks; It has been raining all day, and I found myself ...

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