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Building with Wood

Gilberto Perez: Time and Tarkovsky

26 February 2009
by Nathan Dunne.
Black Dog, 464 pp., £29.95, February 2008, 978 1 906155 04 9
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Andrei Tarkovsky: Elements of Cinema 
by Robert Bird.
Reaktion, 255 pp., £15.95, April 2008, 978 1 86189 342 0
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... to look at the Madonna del Parto; but on arriving at the church he tells her he doesn’t want to go in, and she enters the crypt alone. ‘Three kinds of space dominate all Tarkovsky’s films,’ RobertBird writes: ‘nature, the home, and the shrine or cathedral.’ The ‘cathedral space is demonstrated most fully at the beginning of Nostalghia . . . in the rigorously geometrical yet ...

Exotic Bird​ from Ilford

Robert​ Baird: Denise Levertov

24 September 2014
Denise Levertov: A Poet’s Life 
by Dana Greene.
Illinois, 328 pp., £22.99, October 2012, 978 0 252 03710 8
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A Poet’s Revolution: The Life of Denise Levertov 
by Donna Krolik Hollenberg.
California, 515 pp., £30.95, April 2013, 978 0 520 27246 0
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Collected Poems 
by Denise Levertov.
New Directions, 1063 pp., £32.99, December 2013, 978 0 8112 2173 3
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... of defeated gloom’. Levertov was ‘a charming and most attractive dark-haired English girl with a characteristic space between her front teeth … Everyone in Paris liked her. She was pure as a bird, delicate yet firm in conscience.’ Levertov thought Mailer, who had just published The Naked and the Dead, ‘a nice Jewish boy’ and a ‘friendly, modest, humorous person’. His ‘overnight ...

In Defence of Allusion

Robert​ Pinsky

22 May 2003
... it was, like humming a tune. ‘You couldn’t wipe them out, they breed like rats.’ All of the starlings in America are descended From ones imported because a certain man Wanted a park with every bird mentioned by Shakespeare. The birds are a pest, they drive out native species In the world’s rivalrous web of exterminations And propagating shadows, the net of being ...
13 May 2010
... Sometime later he was hit By a train – head lowered in the cold, Somewhat deaf by the age of 50. Not so repentant as startled, As in a movie where the dying man Gazes at some bird or cloud But still wouldn’t go to church Even if he could be carried. Among those middens of doubt Escaping seemed like a robust plan. But he didn’t know precisely What she was talking about. Her ...

Four Poems

Robert​ Crawford

4 August 1994
... us, Our locked bureau, crammed with ourselves. Ripening My mother buys my dad a new tweed jacket Very rarely, always at the sales. Upstairs in one of two mahogany wardrobes He hangs it like a shot bird to be cured, New for a decade, it takes on the smell Of jackets round it, his scent, the reek of mothballs. On coathangers, suspended in the dark, Herringbone accepts the gift of waiting. Unseasoned ...


Robert​ Irwin

3 July 1997
by Jim Crace.
Viking, 243 pp., £16.99, June 1997, 0 670 85697 5
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... in literature and, I think, no message for those who do not inhabit the novel. The misleading case of badu hunting techniques is also instructive. These are wonderfully elaborate. In order to catch a bird in the desert, you must first find a tethered goat and then rub salt in its ear in order to extract a blood-filled tick and then tie a thread round the tick’s abdomen. Leave the tick with its ...

Three Poems

Robert​ Crawford

4 November 2004
... salmon. I, snapper. I, fire. I, anolis lizard. I, orchid. I, tree frog. I, iguana. I, ant. I, skink. I, sidewinder. I, archaeopteryx. I, hoatzin. I, heron. I, king penguin. I, saddle-billed stork. I, bird of paradise. I, cormorant. I, bower bird. I, macaque. I, cassowary. I, darter. I, armadillo. I, marmoset. I, bluebell. I, humpbacked whale. I, possum. I, spruce. I, sequoia. I, gibbon. I, zebra. I ...


Michael Hofmann: Eley Williams

6 September 2017
Attrib. and Other Stories 
by Eley Williams.
Influx, 169 pp., £9.99, March 2017, 978 1 910312 16 2
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by Eley Williams.
Sad, 35 pp., £6, April 2017
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... beaten track. Joseph Brodsky claimed to think that 90 per cent of love poetry was postcoital; Williams’s stories, with only one or two exceptions, come in the wake of break-ups. The lover – the bird or bard – has flown. The reader may very well think this is no bad thing. Williams’s leavers are all-rounders, shining, uncomplicated, confident, bossy creatures, ‘free to play or free to slack ...

Elizabeth Bishop’s Aviary

Mark Ford: Elizabeth Bishop’s Aviary

29 November 2007
... in the drawings as a bunny rabbit flanked by two birds, one perched and one hovering. Penguins, of course, can’t fly, and there is a characteristic irony in Bishop’s identifying herself with a bird that can gain access to the skies only by gazing at her blue balloon. Bishop often likened poetic composition to an attempt to get airborne. ‘It is hard,’ she wrote in her notebook around 1937 ...

Hatching, Splitting, Doubling

James Lasdun: Smooching the Swan

21 August 2003
Fantastic Metamorphoses, Other Worlds: Ways of Telling the Self 
by Marina Warner.
Oxford, 264 pp., £19.99, October 2002, 0 19 818726 2
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... A memorable image in Robert Musil’s Man without Qualities likens the impact of a certain character to that of a powdery avalanche. The effect of reading Marina Warner’s magisterial works of cultural history is somewhat ...

At the British Museum

Peter Campbell: Living, Dying and Enlightenment

22 January 2004
... are such that all the objects have an abundant life of their own. This makes the quality of the connections between, say, a Bolivian dance mask and a wooden pillow from Zimbabwe unimportant. In Robert Smirke’s King’s Library of 1828, now divested of the books it was built to house, there is a new gallery called ‘Enlightenment’.* On the shelves and in display cases you find a stuffed toucan ...

Leo’s Silences

Robert​ Irwin: The travels of Leo Africanus

8 February 2007
Trickster Travels: A 16th-Century Muslim between Worlds 
by Natalie Zemon Davis.
Faber, 448 pp., £20, January 2007, 978 0 571 20256 0
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... in general terms, Leo compares himself to an executioner who has been given the task of flogging a friend: he beats his friend as hard as he can, for that is his duty. Leo then tells the story of a bird that could live either on land or under the water. When the king of the birds demands taxes from him, the bird professes himself to be a creature of the water and retreats there. But when the king of ...


Tim Dee: Derek Walcott’s Birthday Party

21 May 2014
... taken by Judith Aronson for her show Likenesses at the Royal West of England Academy. Many poets and writers are in the exhibition: William Empson, Seamus Heaney, Charles Tomlinson, Salman Rushdie, Robert Lowell, Geoffrey Hill. The only other bare feet besides Walcott’s belong to a corpse on a dissecting table in front of Keith Simpson, the forensic pathologist. An illegible name-tag is attached to ...

A Palm Tree, a Colour and a Mythical Bird

Robert​ L. Cioffi: Ideas of Phoenicia

3 January 2019
In Search of the Phoenicians 
by Josephine Quinn.
Princeton, 360 pp., £27, December 2017, 978 0 691 17527 0
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... Phoenician’ (phoinix) is a Greek word (the Latin ‘Punic’ has the same root), and besides denoting a person from Phoenicia, it can refer to a palm tree, a deep red-purple colour and the mythical bird. There are only five Greek-language inscriptions in which people identify themselves as Phoenician, and just one of them – a bilingual funerary marker erected in Athens for a certain Antipatros of ...


Jane Campbell: The Rarest Bird​ in the World

5 July 2018
... Eve, a sunny day with a bit of a breeze but a clear sky, when I boarded a small shabby Boston Whaler belonging to David Wingate. We were going to Nonsuch Island, the home of the cahow, an oceanic bird that was believed extinct for more than 300 years. Invisible most of the time and, like most Bermudians, off at sea as often as possible, it is unique to Bermuda and now one of the rarest birds in ...

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