In the latest issue:

Boris Johnson’s First Year

Ferdinand Mount

Short Cuts: In the Bunker

Thomas Jones

Theban Power

James Romm

What can the WHO do?

James Meek

At the Type Archive

Alice Spawls

Where the Poor Lived

Alison Light

At the Movies: ‘Da 5 Bloods’

Michael Wood

Cultural Pillaging

Neal Ascherson

Jenny Offill

Adam Mars-Jones

Shakespeare v. the English

Michael Dobson

Poem: ‘Now Is the Cool of the Day’

Maureen N. McLane


David Trotter

Consider the Hare

Katherine Rundell

How Should I Refer to You?

Amia Srinivasan

Poem: ‘Field Crickets (Gryllus campestris)’

Fiona Benson

Diary: In Mali

Rahmane Idrissa

In Gratuitous WitnessLaura (Riding) Jackson

After I had long nursed a faith
In the promise on which poetry has thrived –
The recalled promise of language
At its careful rising in minds
To teach all, little by little,
Until life and speech are one,
Union of being with itself,
Of knowledge with the known,
Instantaneity consuming
The separating silence heard as ‘time’,
The beat, beat, of not-yet, not-yet –
Suddenly I saw, startling at each other,
In me, without interchange,
The plight of life and the plight of poetry,
That I had lovingly judged near-same.

Words had flocked around the plight of poetry,
Flutters of promise populating the air.
But suddenly I saw how they vanished
Between plight and plight – nothing sealed,
As nothing said, only plight and plight left.
I saw the nature of the promise:
Poetry could only echo it
From the forefelt unspoken all-speakable.

Suddenly my will changed. In me formed
A new sense of the necessary.
Poetry itself could not fulfil
The promise of language, only reveal –
Failing ever to be full wording
Of the speech of lives – promptings of desire,
The wish for utterance’s utmost
Given intonations of achievement.

I have waited for the breath of life
And the breath of speech to mingle.
This must come about first in the mind.
We must think our way into our station
Of watchkeeper on the universe,
Upon the life-whole of it.
It is the station of speech.
Here the promise of language will be proved.

But poetic images of word-success
Abound in our Day, and speech-failure seems
The literarily impossible.
And the universal possible
Of life-true speech and speech-true life
Singled out in the human summation
Is being broken down into
Infinitesimal human perversions
Of the human truth-possible.

If this is what is happening,
How can the promise of language
Prosper in us and we in it,
The universe rejoicing in the event?
And when? The event broods over us
As we over the when it is,
Not knowing what when to say it is.
The answer waits upon the asking.

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