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Index: Poetry & Fiction

A letter to William Shakespeare.

Bonnefoy: ‘…you’re standing in a corner of the theatre. It’s cold, and a wind seems to be blowing. You’re talking to several men, young and old. One of them will be Hamlet; another, Ophelia. Do you have an idea to explain to them? No. Hamlet is being written here, at this very moment, in the sentences that come to you, that take you by surprise. It’s virtually an improvisation, over several days divided between your table—I don’t know where—and the stage: a text, certainly, but one you cross out off-the-cuff, as when you understand—for example, at this very instant—that your future Hamlet doesn’t grasp all that well what you’re trying to tell him.’

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Écrire à Shakespeare.

Yves Bonnefoy: ‘Et comment ces mains s’y sont pris pour faire bouger cette boue, ces couleurs, ce froid, ces débuts mystérieux de chaleur, je voudrais bien vous le demander, c’était la raison de ma lettre, ou plutôt, non, je voudrais vous dire ce que j’en pense, vous expliquer ce que vous avez fait, car j’ai mon idée là dessus, en effet, vous acquiesceriez peut-être…’

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Five poems by Jules Supervielle.

Jules Supervielle: ‘If you touch his hand, it’s without knowing.
You remember him, but under another name.
In the middle of the night, in your deepest sleep
you say his real name and invite him to stay.’
Translation by Ian Seed.

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Words ‘dreadful as the abortions of an angel’.

Anthony Howell: ‘I would identify this as “illuminated writing”. Readers may find it “over the top” (but that is what is being described). It’s as if Dylan Thomas were to find himself storming Hill 50. This might be thought an unfashionable, adjective-laden style these days, when writing such as Edith Sitwell’s is so often vilified (at least in “aware” poetry circles). But no one can take away from her poem “Still Falls the Rain” its right to be considered one of the great expressions about the suffering brought about by war (specifically the air raids of 1940). ‘

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from ‘Silent Highway’.

From ‘Silent Highway': For ancient Britons, if they could be found,
For bird-watchers, for birds, for water-violets…
He liked to talk to herons, being tall,
And waded here, and further up, at Brentford
Composing poems as he strode or strove…

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The poet and the dictionary.

Alan Wall: ‘Geoffrey Hill’s poetic career has been mediated through his engagement with the dictionary. And that dictionary is first and foremost the OED. There is no greater dictionary in the world, and its making constitutes one of the great intellectual events of the twentieth century, though it started life in the nineteenth. There had never been anything like this before. Now the language itself has become the documented labyrinth of its own manifold meanings. Now history can be traced uttering itself thus and thus in one mutating word after another. The thought of a poet writing in English who would not grow excited turning the pages of the OED, or clicking on the electronic version, is so dismal that one wishes such a personage an even smaller readership than modern poets normally manage to acquire.’

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from ‘Teint’.

JK Huysmans: ‘Like many country girls, the Bièvre fell prey, upon her arrival in Paris, to the industrial snares of touts; despoiled of her dresses of grass and adornments of trees, she had to set to work immediately and wear herself out with the terrible chores demanded of her. Surrounded by rough merchants who pass her daily, but, by common agreement, imprison her in turn the length of her banks, she has become a tannery worker, and, day and night, she washes the filth from stripped skins, soaks the spare fleeces and raw leather, suffers the grip of alum, the bite of lime and caustic.’

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Children of war in Palestine.

Manash Bhattacharjee: ‘In a battered street
Little Yasin lies dead with flag in hand
The Rabbi’s cheek is a moist wall’

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‘Recessional’ and other new poems.

Hoyt Rogers; Day can’t die, eyes / never close. But isn’t that the courage of language? To blind / by seeing, to deafen by saying, to divorce the world for words.

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Textuality.

Alan Wall: Tyndale ‘was on the side of the humble interpreters of the Bible’s teaching, against those who thought themselves supreme authorities. Hence his famous statement: ‘If God spare my life, ere many years I will cause a boy that driveth the plough shall know more of the scripture than thou dost.’ This was addressed to a theological opponent, one said to be learned, whose position in society was somewhat grander than following a plough. We all have the right to midrash; to that questioning of the original scripture, as long as it is driven by a fierce will to get to the truth. Pushed on by the ploughman’s shoulder.’

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‘The Art of Writing’ and other poems.

Alan Wall: ‘Charlemagne at forty taught himself to read
but never mastered writing:
all that fiddle and faff.
Carolingian script for his eye not his fingers.’

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Grandeur.

Andrew Jordan: ‘Mars as ever Mars must be; beyond shame, the warrior silent for years,
unresolved, his thoughts given as goods through passions imposed—
for the losses of gay kynges heaped, dishonoured pale, modern politics
within which poets variously comply, their material adjusted to please;
and all for a thumbs up on Facebook!’

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In close formation.

Peter Dent: ‘ my favourite side-

slip was the one about Thrace – whose music
not to mention its early poetry was the first port
of call for heavies supposing you needed same
(in those days you’d be considered odd if you
didn’t subsidiary clauses being brought in

overnight)…’

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Links from a forgotten chain.

Harry Guest: ‘…high language may
conceal discrepancies when colours leave,
shapes alter, former echoes don’t
even disturb the cobwebs…’

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‘After Argos…’

Kelvin Corcoran: So what are we doing now Potnia?
Do you see them at the foot of the hill
surrounding us, a flood, do you see them
through our transparent walls?

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