This page contains a Flash digital edition of a book.
‘Craving affirmation and healing, the faithful Gillian and the faithless Vincent hurtle unstoppably towards an amour fou,’ PAGE 27


zra Pound was among the most interesting and controversial literary

figures of the twentieth century for a variety of reasons. He wisely and selflessly championed great writers such as T.S. Eliot and James Joyce, and he unwisely supported the cause of Mussolini, which saw him arraigned for treason. But, political notoriety aside, how important a poet was he? A new edition of his Selected Poems

and Translations (Faber and Faber, £16.99, Tablet price £15.30) helps us to judge him anew. Pound was a magpie, flitting from one civilisation to another as he pursued an authentic voice for himself. What comes over best of all in this substantial book are not so much the often dreary and maddeningly obscure extracts from his “Cantos”, the long, multi-part poem to which he devoted more than half a century of fitful endeavour, but his early poems and translations from the Provençal and the Chinese. Here the voice is zestful and assured, and the images – especially in the “Cathay” poems of 1915 – have a crystalline clarity. In these versions from the classical Chinese poets, Pound manages to say so much, and so movingly, in so few words. “Magpie” is a word we might use of the

poetry of Christopher Middleton, currently surging through his ninth decade. Two years ago, his Collected Poems were published to great acclaim. Now, in Poems 2006-2009 (Shearsman, £12.95; Tablet price £11.70) we have three more substantial books of poems rolled up into one. Middleton eagerly flits from theme to theme. He writes of birds, cats, owls, traffic noise and abstruse points of intellectual history with ease and delightful gusto. Everything is grist to his mill. It is as if the whole world of his long memory is a kind of bran tub to be plundered. He lights on some historical detail which entertains him from, say, a painting by Rogier Van der Weyden, or, zipping back a millennium, Julian the Apostate, and he entertainingly riffs upon it. He is unlike any other poet writing today. The best new discovery of the season is a


Lewis Ayres is the Bede Professor of Catholic theology at the University of Durham. His latest book is Augustine and the Trinity, published by Cambridge University Press.

Michael Glover is The Tablet’s poetry editor. Nicola Smyth is an author and journalist. Brendan Walsh is a writer and publisher.

book blandly entitled Collected Poems in English (Bloodaxe, £12; Tablet price £10.80) by Arun Kolatkar, one of the great poets of post-war India. It is of the singular, mayhem-like world of India – its streets, its buses, its rats, its sad, abandoned bicycle tyres, its mess and its dirt – that he writes with such a deft, absorbing and often absurdist humour. The poetry is utterly fearless. No topic is out of bounds. He is as happy to write about a leper orchestra as he is to hymn the praises of an advertising slogan with its melancholy back to the wall. What is so delightfully unexpected, always, is his angle of attack. You can never quite prejudge how he will view the odd, impoverished particularities of the topsy-turvy world that he studies with such care and irreverent fondness. David Harsent’s Night (Faber, £9.99;

Tablet price £9) returns us, at the snap of the fingers, to England. The entire book, written by one of our most accomplished and well-published poets, feels like a long ghost story which has been mined from deep within a particular English tradition, told in many different ways. Everything seems to be locked into everything else, rather creepily, as if each poem has the right to eavesdrop on its neighbour. There is a sense, throughout, of the

ill-defined narrator of each poem roaming and flowing and drifting and hovering,


always slightly out of touch with what he is likely to encounter, always living in fear of what he will discover about the unpredictable world in which his ever-shifting and unpredictable self is condemned to play its part, by dint of being alive. It is a deeply unsettling, and immensely readable, book. A bit of a page-turner, in fact. Were he not dead, a poet who could easily

have travelled hand in hand with Harsent in his current slightly ghoulish and possessed mood would have been Martinus Nijhoff. A fine poetry publishing house called Anvil Press has just wrested this Dutch poet from relative and wholly undeserved obscurity by publishing a new translation of a long poem called Awater (£8.95; Tablet price £8.10), which was first published in the 1930s. This book, too, involves a ghostly pursuit of a man who has no name. Read on, dear reader. Michael Glover

The Talking Tablet

If you have difficulty in reading, or can no longer read, contact the

Talking Newspaper Association of the UK

for information about the regular edition on tape, or the etext version available by email, on our website.

Telephone: 01435 866102 Fax: 01435 865422 Email:

THE TABLET BOOKSHOP £1.75 (4 books or more: add £5)

Postage and Packing for books up to 1kg* UK

EUROPE £2.00 per book

REST OF THE WORLD £2.50 per book *P&P for oversized books will be charged at cost

We accept Visa, MasterCard and Switch Cheques payable to Redemptorist Publications


Email: Post:

01420 592 974 Fax: 01420 888 05

The Tablet Bookshop, Alphonsus House Chawton, Hampshire GU34 3HQ

Redemptorist Publications will endeavour to sell you the book at the price advertised. However, occasionally on publication the published price is altered,in which case we will notify you prior to debiting your card.

12 March 2011 | THE TABLET | 25

Page 1  |  Page 2  |  Page 3  |  Page 4  |  Page 5  |  Page 6  |  Page 7  |  Page 8  |  Page 9  |  Page 10  |  Page 11  |  Page 12  |  Page 13  |  Page 14  |  Page 15  |  Page 16  |  Page 17  |  Page 18  |  Page 19  |  Page 20  |  Page 21  |  Page 22  |  Page 23  |  Page 24  |  Page 25  |  Page 26  |  Page 27  |  Page 28  |  Page 29  |  Page 30  |  Page 31  |  Page 32  |  Page 33  |  Page 34  |  Page 35  |  Page 36  |  Page 37  |  Page 38  |  Page 39  |  Page 40
Produced with Yudu -