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Lyrics and Ironies

Christopher Ricks, 4 December 1986

The Alluring Problem: An Essay on Irony 
by D.J. Enright.
Oxford, 178 pp., £12.95, October 1986, 0 19 212253 3
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Czeslaw Milosz and the Insufficiency of Lyric 
by Donald Davie.
Cambridge, 76 pp., £15, September 1986, 0 521 32264 2
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... imperialistic or infectious irony can be. Two notable warnings are not accommodated by Enright. John Crowe Ransom’s: ‘We should be so much in favour of tragedy and irony as not to think it good policy to require them in all our poems, for fear we might bring them into bad fame.’ And T.S. Eliot’s: ‘What we rebel against is neither the use of irony ...

The Opposite of a Dog

Jenny Turner, 6 October 1994

Radon Daughters 
by Iain Sinclair.
Cape, 458 pp., £15.99, August 1994, 0 224 03887 7
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... and Star Trek enthusiast called TCP ‘Germy’ Hinton on the Oxford leg, passing by the grave of John Dee, Elizabeth I’s court wizard, an allegorical theme-park called Milton Keynes and other centres of deep and magical significance, as they go. Why are they doing this? Because they have been sent on a quixotic chase after a texte de fétiche, a putative ...

Davie’s Rap

Neil Corcoran, 25 January 1990

Under Briggflatts: A History of Poetry in Great Britain 1960-1988 
by Donald Davie.
Carcanet, 261 pp., £18.95, October 1989, 0 85635 820 7
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Annunciations 
by Charles Tomlinson.
Oxford, 55 pp., £5.95, November 1989, 0 19 282680 8
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Possible Worlds 
by Peter Porter.
Oxford, 68 pp., £6.95, September 1989, 0 19 282660 3
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The boys who stole the funeral: A Novel Sequence 
by Les Murray.
Carcanet, 71 pp., £6.95, October 1989, 0 85635 845 2
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... they play no significant part in this history, then what are we to make of the omissions of J.H. Prynne and Roy Fisher, heroes of Davie’s earlier study of the contemporary, Thomas Hardy and British Poetry (1973)? In a book whose title claims centrality for Bunting, a writer who signally amalgamated Wordsworthian English Romanticism and ...

Colloquially Speaking

Patrick McGuinness: Poetry from Britain and Ireland after 1945, 1 April 1999

The Penguin Book of Poetry from Britain and Ireland since 1945 
edited by Simon Armitage and Robert Crawford.
Viking, 480 pp., £10.99, September 1998, 0 670 86829 9
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The Firebox: Poetry from Britain and Ireland after 1945 
edited by Sean O’Brien.
Picador, 534 pp., £16.99, October 1998, 0 330 36918 0
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... for instance, Burns Singer, one of the most original poets of the Fifties, or David Wright and John Heath-Stubbs. All three were friends of Graham, and their inclusion might have helped the Forties and Fifties out of their New Apocalypse v. Movement stand-off. Hamish Henderson, whose 1948 Elegies for the Dead in Cyrenaica (reprinted by Polygon in ...

Toolkit for Tinkerers

Colin Burrow: The Sonnet, 24 June 2010

The Art of the Sonnet 
by Stephanie Burt and David Mikics.
Harvard, 451 pp., £25.95, May 2010, 978 0 674 04814 0
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... Dante, Michelangelo and Shakespeare did, as well as more recent experimenters such as Hopkins, John Berryman or the sub-Prynnean Tony Lopez. Donne and Hopkins used sonnets as vehicles for religious anguish because it’s so easy to suggest that they’re buckling under pressure, that the spirit will not run true to the form, or to God. The sonnet has a ...

Icicles by Cynthia

Michael Wood: Ghosts, 2 January 2020

Romantic Shades and Shadows 
by Susan J. Wolfson.
Johns Hopkins, 272 pp., £50, August 2018, 978 1 4214 2554 2
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... Sweeney, we gotta use words when we talk to people. Or we can wonder where we are, as J.H. Prynne, among many others, did when faced with the case of Ferdinand de Saussure, who busied himself finding unsuspected anagrams in Latin and other poetry. (Lévi-Strauss called Saussure’s readings ‘tinkering’, while Jean-Jacques Lecercle said they were ...

A bird that isn’t there

Jeremy Noel-Tod: R.F. Langley, 8 February 2001

Collected Poems 
by R.F. Langley.
Carcanet, 72 pp., £6.95, January 2001, 9781857544480
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... After J.H. Prynne’s weighty Poems (Bloodaxe) surfaced, like the Kraken, in high-street bookshops in 1999, the complete R.F. Langley looked like a pretty small unnumbered polypus in comparison. Prynne and Langley are of an age (in their early sixties) and, superficially, of a school: both are connected with the small-press poetry world centred on Cambridge, which has, since the 1960s, maintained an alternative aesthetic to the poets and poetry associated with Oxford in the same period ...

The poet steamed

Iain Sinclair: Tom Raworth, 19 August 2004

Collected Poems 
by Tom Raworth.
Carcanet, 576 pp., £16.95, February 2003, 1 85754 624 5
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Removed for Further Study: The Poetry of Tom Raworth 
edited by Nate Dorward.
The Gig, 288 pp., £15, March 2003, 0 9685294 3 7
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... rants (trashing the proles), small revenges. The Modernist experiment (Mary Butts, Djuna Barnes, John Rodker) was discounted, along with the social realists (Robert Westerby, James Curtis, Alexander Baron), who remain trapped in a ghetto of unfashionable leftist politics and unfashionable locations. The locations – Whitechapel, Notting Hill – have ...

Slavery and Revenge

John Kerrigan, 22 October 2020

... In his Narrative of a Five Years’ Expedition against the Revolted Negroes of Surinam (1796), John Gabriel Stedman describes meeting a man who had been a prince in Africa but was ‘surprized, taken, and bound’ while on a raid ‘to revenge his [father’s] death’. Yet some who wrote about the plantations also correctively maintained that, whatever ...

The Raging Peloton

Iain Sinclair: Boris Bikes, 20 January 2011

... Scott sentimentality to summon, with bicycle imagery, projections of an England that never was. John Major, a gap-year, work experience prime minister, sleepwalking through the job, as a profile-raising photo opportunity between serious employment in the banking and conference-addressing industries, blundered into a reprise of Orwell’s cycling ...

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