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Inside Out

John Bayley, 4 September 1980

The Collected Ewart 1933-1980 
by Gavin Ewart.
Hutchinson, 412 pp., £10, June 1980, 0 09 141000 2
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Selected Poems and Prose 
by Michael Roberts, edited by Frederick Grubb.
Carcanet, 205 pp., £7.95, June 1980, 0 85635 263 2
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... poems about sex – the purple penises and panties round the ankles – was beginning to pall. Michael Roberts, editor of the original Faber Book of Modern Poetry, was also a poet, but it seems unlikely that his own poems will be remembered, Time, as Auden pointed out, worships language and forgives everyone by whom it lives, but is apt to be ...

Massacre of the Innocents

Michael Symmons Roberts, 30 June 2016

... It was just a handful – five or six – but they spread themselves around us, hid behind trees, began a sotto voce incantation made of nonsense: jingoistic rhymes, unsolvable riddles, misplaced bits of liturgy. But rattling as it did off countless boughs and branches, this whispered cacophony convinced us that an army choked the forest. We pictured cities laid to ruin on the roads from here, battalions of starving, shattered men ...

Custody of the Eyes

Michael Symmons Roberts, 4 March 2021

... After months of chin-on-chest,shoes scuffed on frozen hillside tracks,day-lit window dulled to lantern glow,papered frame-to-frame with pagesfrom penitential psalms,horizons contracted to the height of a man,how do you choosethe moment to uncrick your neck,to lift your head’s dead weight,you now unguarded, raw again and open to it all,to take the sudden world in whole,and hope your heart will hold?And what if you squander it,look up a second too soon,attention and intention stolen by a dog’s nameshouted in the valley below,a branch brought down by its dry age,your heart’s own stammer ...

Rehearsal for the Day of Joy

Michael Symmons Roberts, 7 January 2016

... The dancers are stretching, loosening in their dressing rooms, half-dressed in a mess of costume rails, water glasses topped with a dusting of rouge. Although it’s still too soon to dance, look at the rush of guttered rain through grids to join the surge towards an open sea. See how the dry leaves catch in corners, petals of a burnt manifesto caught in a breeze between tenements ...


Michael Symmons Roberts, 4 July 1996

... There was a scramble for mementos when the road across the border was smashed up, and there was no way in or out of this province of great lakes and mountains. High on a terraced garden, where potatoes and carrots have begun to replace blooms, a broken cat’s-eye lies in its hand-sized block of rusted iron, and blinks at the house lights every night unseen ...

Two Poems

Michael Symmons Roberts, 18 May 2017

... Soliloquy of the Inner Emigré The authorities asked us to call at noon, to test their new helpline. No one was available to answer our questions. I kept the line open just in case, held the phone to my ear all afternoon, until its ringtone was my metronome. Devolution is a constant process: each week I secede another stage, ratchet back and back from every bloc until I am a law unto myself ...

Golden Boy

Denis Donoghue, 22 December 1983

W.H.Auden: The Critical Heritage 
edited by John Haffenden.
Routledge, 535 pp., £19.95, September 1983, 0 7100 9350 0
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Auden: A Carnival of Intellect 
by Edward Callan.
Oxford, 299 pp., £12.50, August 1983, 0 19 503168 7
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Drawn from the Life: A Memoir 
by Robert Medley.
Faber, 251 pp., £12.50, November 1983, 0 571 13043 7
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... appeared in May 1932. By the end of that year, Louis MacNeice, Stephen Spender, Geoffrey Grigson, Michael Roberts, Bonamy Dobrée, John Hayward and Graham Greene had nominated Auden as the new voice. The six odes and the epilogue of The Orators, Greene said, justified Auden’s ‘being named in the same breath as Lawrence’. But Greene had some ...

God in Heaven send us peace

Peter Burke, 18 April 1985

The Thirty Years’ War 
by Geoffrey Parker.
Routledge, 340 pp., £20, January 1985, 0 7100 9788 3
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... as it does Bonney on France, Elliott on Spain, Evans on Central Europe, Petersen on Denmark, Roberts on Sweden, and so on. These contributions, which amount to about 40 per cent of the whole, are signed, but they are fitted so neatly into the grand design that the result is a book and not just a collection of essays by various hands. The organisation is ...

In Coleridge’s Bed

Ange Mlinko: Dead Poets Road Trip, 20 April 2017

Deaths of the Poets 
by Paul Farley and Michael Symmons Roberts.
Cape, 414 pp., £14.99, February 2017, 978 0 224 09754 3
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... Horace and Ovid threw down the gauntlet to oblivion: come and get me if you can. Paul Farley and Michael Symmons Roberts are poets and professors of poetry, and the authors of a previous collaboration, Edgelands, which took as its subject the dejected spaces that buffer suburban developments, industrial parks, highways and ...


Daniel Soar: The Photographic Novel, 20 April 2006

Patrick’s Alphabet 
by Michael Symmons Roberts.
Cape, 230 pp., £10.99, March 2006, 0 224 07596 9
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... Village because nothing ever happens there.’ Perry Scholes, the protagonist and narrator of Michael Symmons Roberts’s first novel, Patrick’s Alphabet, is obsessed with Weegee. Perry is a modern ambulance chaser who patrols the suburban ‘edgelands’ of the M4 corridor and the M25 in self-conscious imitation of ...

At the Movies

Michael Wood: The gangster movie, 13 December 2007

American Gangster 
directed by Ridley Scott.
November 2007
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... is a parallel to Lucas’s life of denial, and this is the curious double-standard story of Richie Roberts, played by Russell Crowe. In a world where many cops are on the take, and others are at least keeping quiet about what they know, Roberts not only doesn’t steal, he returns to the authorities a haul of a million ...

Ideas of War

Johann Sommerville, 27 October 1988

The Military Revolution: Military Innovation and the Rise of the West, 1500-1800 
by Geoffrey Parker.
Cambridge, 234 pp., £15, May 1988, 0 521 32607 9
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War and Society in Europe of the Old Regime: 1618-1789 
by M.S. Anderson.
Fontana, 239 pp., £4.95, May 1988, 0 00 686053 2
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Waging war: A Philosophical Introduction 
by Ian Clark.
Oxford, 154 pp., £17.50, April 1988, 0 19 827325 8
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... than they did at first glance. The idea of an Early Modern military revolution was introduced by Michael Roberts in 1955. Professor Parker accepts and develops the notion. Perhaps the single most important aspect of the revolution was the victory of the gun. In Venice the gun replaced the crossbow in 1490, and elsewhere guns came into fashion in the ...


Alan Bennett: Selling my hair on eBay, 6 January 2022

... with a workshop on the ground floor and accommodation above, with the lease belonging to Henrietta Roberts (later Dombey), the daughter of Michael Roberts and Janet Adam Smith. What occasioned Rupert’s interest was his having been to look at a very grand house for his magazine (World of Interiors), the expensive ...

At the Movies

Michael Wood: ‘The International’, ‘Duplicity’, 9 April 2009

The International 
directed by Tom Twyker.
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directed by Tony Gilroy.
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... and Paul Giamatti, think of little except doing each other in. Enter Clive Owen and Julia Roberts – well, they enter several times, given the complicated time frames of the movie. He is ex-MI6, she is ex-CIA, and now they work for the imperial companies – to be precise, for the same imperial company, since he is a spy for one and she is pretending ...

Goodness me

Mary-Kay Wilmers, 26 October 1989

Margaret, Daughter of Beatrice: A Politician’s Psycho-Biography of Margaret Thatcher 
by Leo Abse.
Cape, 288 pp., £13.95, September 1989, 0 224 02726 3
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... Mrs Thatcher, like Hedda Gabler, thinks of herself as her father’s daughter. For a hero, Alderman Roberts may be lacking in style. ‘A cautious, thrifty fellow’ is how Hugo Young describes him and it’s easy to tell he isn’t impressed. But Alfred Roberts was an imposing figure in Grantham and his businesses worked at a time when a great many failed ...

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