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‘I was such a lovely girl’

Barbara Newman: The Songs of the Medieval Troubadours

25 May 2006
Lark in the Morning: The Verses of the Troubadours 
translated by Ezra Pound, W.D. Snodgrass and Robert Kehew, edited by Robert Kehew.
Chicago, 280 pp., £35, May 2005, 0 226 42933 4
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Medieval Lyric: Middle English Lyrics, Ballads and Carols 
edited by John Hirsh.
Blackwell, 220 pp., £17.99, August 2004, 1 4051 1482 7
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An Anthology of Ancient and Medieval Woman’s Song 
edited by Anne Klinck.
Palgrave, 208 pp., £19.99, May 2004, 9781403963109
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... trobairitz or women poets. Of the translators, all poets, Ezra Pound is represented by 15 songs, W.D. Snodgrass by 19, and Kehew by 21, conveniently arranged on facing pages opposite their originals. For his indelibly quirky, archaising versions, Pound favoured the verse of the bellicose Bertran de Born (whom Dante condemned to hell as a fomentor of ...

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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... and Part Way Back (1960), the poem shows Sexton’s craft, honed with advice from John Holmes, W.D. Snodgrass and Robert Lowell. Retrieved at the last moment from her ‘bone pile’ of discards to fill out the book, it had gone through 19 drafts before Sexton achieved what Middlebrook calls the ‘double “I” ’ of the stanza and refrain. It was ...
1 November 1984
Station Island 
by Seamus Heaney.
Faber, 123 pp., £5.95, October 1984, 0 571 13301 0
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Sweeney Astray: A Version 
by Seamus Heaney.
Faber, 85 pp., £6.95, October 1984, 0 571 13360 6
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Rich 
by Craig Raine.
Faber, 109 pp., £5.95, September 1984, 0 571 13215 4
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... of yourself than you redeem doing the decent thing. Keep at a tangent. When they make the circle wide, it’s time to swim out on your own and fill the element with signatures on your own frequency, echo soundings, searches, probes, allurements, elver-gleams in the dark of the whole sea.’ If these meetings with writers seem a touch self-regarding (the ...

Main Man

Michael Hofmann

7 July 1994
Walking Possession: Essays and Reviews 1968-1993 
by Ian Hamilton.
Bloomsbury, 302 pp., £20, May 1994, 0 7475 1712 6
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Gazza Italia 
by Ian Hamilton.
Granta, 188 pp., £5.99, May 1994, 0 14 014073 5
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... of Lowell since his move from New York to London in 1970. I had published his poems, I had interviewed him, I had visited him now and then at home and in hospital. We weren’t friends, exactly, but we were friendly enough allies, of a sort.’ My feeling about the biography was that it was just slightly mechanical in its account of the rhythm of Lowell’s ...

Follow-the-Leader

Colm Tóibín: Bishop v. Lowell

14 May 2009
Words in Air: The Complete Correspondence between Elizabeth Bishop and Robert Lowell 
edited by Thomas Travisano and Saskia Hamilton.
Faber, 875 pp., £40, November 2008, 978 0 571 24308 2
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... so that she could find the right tone and form for it. She was never sure. In his poem Lowell allowed the scream of Bishop’s story to become almost a shriek. He was right to feel that Bishop could have made ‘a really great poem’ from this material. It was an essential aspect of her talent, indeed of her great reticent gift as a poet, however, that she ...

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