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Index: Notes & Comment

Najwan Darwish’s poetry of the undefeated.

Manash Firaq Bhattacharjee:’ Najwan Darwish does not find much hope left in affirming one’s identity just politically. He draws the figure of the Palestinian refugee as someone who is more complex and bleak at the same time. Complex due to cultural inheritance that is both Islamic and Christian roots. Bleak in the sense of having one’s home stolen by the devious designs of settler colonialism.’

The Roth/Bailey Contretemps.

William O’Rourke: ‘Dealing with the dead is both easier and harder, the usual paradox for nonfiction writers. All that research! A living author can just tell you. And Roth does and does. It’s hard to locate just when Roth decided his books would be his progeny and Bailey doesn’t wrestle with the question, or bring it up, but I have encountered almost no writers who have been so punctilious and protective of their own work and reputations as Roth.’

Secret agent.

David Platzer: ‘At an early age, Sollers saw that adults were failed children. He himself has remained something of a child into his advanced old age with an ever-jovial face and a twinkle never absent from his eyes, one of the two great contemporary French writers who proclaim the possibility of happiness in life, the other being the late Jean d’Ormesson (1925-2017) who shared Sollers’s great love of Venice.’

The Sequin ‘oh!’

Luke Roberts: ‘Several poems take up from Pindar, swapping out Ergoteles of Himera (et al.) for unlikely characters: the snooker player Alex Higgins gets a whole ode to himself; Manchester United (‘made in the image of god’) brush shoulders with Pelé; and there’s horse- racing, boxing, and plenty of cricket. Besides the classical inheritance, I wonder if Sequin was interested in sport because the rules of play are agreed in advance, and much of it is there on the surface. Her poems, beyond the quintet/quartet/sextet divisions, tend to keep their inner workings secret. But taken as a whole, her art is more like a pitch invasion.’

A resumé of Resistance.

Ian Seed: ‘”Curriculum Violette” offers us a fleeting and yet powerful portrait of the life of Violette Szabo (1921-45), a French-born British agent who fought alongside members of the French Resistance and who died in Ravensbrück concentration camp.’

Peter Taylor in double or triple vision.

John Matthias: ‘I knew him, not in the South, but in the Midwest, where he came to Ohio State during a brief period itself interrupted by a year in Paris, about which he wrote one of his best stories, “Je Suis Perdu.” Among other things, that beautiful story is about a writer who has come to Paris too late—too late in the century, and too late in his own life.’

The Robots of Amazon.

Ian Gardner: ‘In a democratic society, laws determine how freedom of speech and expression are to be exercised, not the private whims of powerful businesses. Amazon has quickly grown to be an important retailer relied on by hundreds of thousands of customers and the decision to censor books is both a huge disappointment and a real concern.’

Tarn’s ‘Hölderliniae’. 

Anthony Rudolf: ‘The intensity and power, the imbrication and musicality, the driving rhythm and complex syntax, in short the poet’s brain work and heart work, generate a singular and beautiful book.’

Turner’s Loom.

Michael Hampton: ‘It is as a re-writer of London that Turner is most effective, joining the crowd of post-Sinclair names cited above who are re-imagining the city, a cross between Urbex trespassers and sober archivists, equipped with proprioceptive sensitivities that can tune into both ancient resonances as well as stand witness to traumatic contemporary change.’

A blurring of genres.

Simon Collings: ‘statements by various critics and authors are marshalled in support of the idea that prose poems are characterised by indeterminacy and an avoidance of closure. But the same can be said of much contemporary lyric poetry. In what way is a Rae Armantrout poem more ‘closed’ than a typical prose poem? How are Charles Simic’s prose poems more ‘open’ than his lineated poems?’

Words and lies.

Paul Cohen: ‘The Liar’s Dictionary is not just a showcase for its author’s linguistic ingenuity. Its affecting characterizations, its absorbing plot, and even its vivid evocation of the largely forgotten but deadly 1899 explosion at Barking have much to offer the reader.’

The Seicento and the Cult of Images.

Yves Bonnefoy: ‘We look at these rivers, these cities in the light; at these beings, haloed by an astounding dignity. We say to ourselves: that world is, perhaps. And within us, soon the ‘passion’ flames up, which is nothing but a love that has its object in our dreams—and we feel tempted to devote a ‘cult’ to certain images, at least.’

Peter Riley’s summer poetry 2020.

Peter Riley: ‘They differ greatly from each other, but if my intention has succeeded, they all allow the possibility of what Blake would have called “multiple vision”, however casually or marginally.’

Twin cities.

Michelene Wandor: ‘There are some wonderful pieces. Ed Vuillamy provides a vivid picture of the kaleidoscope that was Notting Hill in the ’60s, made all the sharper by his personal anecdotes. Tom Dyckhoff’s essay on the O2 (Greenwich) is pointed and illuminating.  ‘

Just a smack at Auden.

Alan Wall: ‘What Sansom discovers in the stanzas of this poem is a fair bit of confusion. Auden didn’t know what would become of the world (who did?) and has become intolerant of his own previous facility in diagnosing the world’s ills.’