Thursday, April 20, 2006

Far from Ulster

Seamus Heaney's new collection of poetry, District and Circle, is published this month (in hardback, alas), and is reviewed here.

I don't feel that I read enough poetry, though I do like Heaney's verse, particularly when he reads it himself. I once attended a reading he did at the Younger Hall in St Andrews when I was an undergraduate there. I'm not sure whether it was just because the town is so small and entertainment so limited that there was a massive audience: the hall was packed. It's when you hear or read the works of great poets (and I'm including Heaney in that list) that you realise what words can convey and how emotions can be raised, and simply how the sounds of words can be moving, even if you have no idea what the poem's about (this is one of the reasons I prefer the Authorized Version of the Bible to any more accurate translations).

Mark Radcliffe used to have poetry readings on his late-night radio show, a particular favourite of the show being John Hegley. This was all very well, and amusing, until one night a Hegley poem was followed by one of Ted Hughes'. The latter showed up the former to an astonishing extent: this, I thought, was real poetry, not just interesting rhymes and wry imagery. I'd never been a fan of Hughes' poetry befre then, having been made to read it at school and disliked its "doom and gloom" feel. Now, however, I'd rank Hughes as one of my favourite poets: the way he uses words is fantastic.

Perhaps I should make an effort to curtail my normal book-buying habits (crime, sci-fi and children's books) and read more poetry.


At Sun Apr 23, 05:44:00 pm, Blogger galatea said...

I very much wanted to buy this... but poetry's just so bloody expensive! And they never do any cheaper format releases of contemporary poets either.

I know poets have to eat, but it really is a problem for the impoverished poetry-lover. I'm going to be scouring second-hand shops for this, and for Hugo Williams' Dear Room.

By the way, I know I bang this drum a lot, but do check out the poetry of B.S. Johnson. There's some on Poemhunter.

At Tue Apr 25, 12:44:00 pm, Blogger Tamburlaine said...

Thanks for the tip about B. S. Johnson. I almost bought his biography by Jonathan Coe last week and may yet have to if I like the poems you've suggested...


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