Peter - portrait/ritratto

Peter - portrait/ritratto

martedì 13 dicembre 2011

mercoledì 26 ottobre 2011

Silly Season

Silly season in poetry book titles is back ... "The Motorway Service Station that is a tourist destination in its own right" only takes second place in the grunge rankings after "Tippoo Sultan's Incredible White-Man-Eating Tiger Toy-Machine!!!" Are we supposed to take this crap seriously? They are not even funny in the slightest...

martedì 16 agosto 2011

Words of Wisdom

If you have little or nothing to say, it's a good idea to shut up.

mercoledì 11 maggio 2011

Literary Translation II

Naffis-Sahely in PN Review 199 - Logue's Translation of Homer

"There is no definitive Homer and never will be. No single translator, not even the best, can lay claim to a work; all one can aspire to is a temporary lease. Matthew Arnlod had some good advice for would-be translators: be rapid, plain, direct and finally - noble".

"As with Pound's Cathay , it benefits from the LACK OF ANY AND ALL AWARENESS OF THE ORIGINAL" (my capitals)

I would not undergo surgery performed by a watchmaker, so why the hell do publishers allow monolinguists to translate!?!?!?!?!

venerdì 6 maggio 2011


I managed to attract around 40 people to my official presentation reading of Weathering - and less than half were friends or acquaintances!

mercoledì 30 marzo 2011

In Praise of Translators

Iain Bamford in PN Review 198, commenting on the complexity of Kant’s writing style, notes:
“The canonical English translation of Kant’s Critique of Pure Reason prepared by the Scottish philosopher Norman Kemp Smith has remained in print since its publication in 1929 and is reputedly more intelligible – even to German-speakers – than the original.”
Three cheers for translators at last!!!

mercoledì 26 gennaio 2011

Walcott & Heaney

By all accounts, Derek Walcott and Seamus Heaney are good mates. They have both won the Nobel Prize. They both had collections in the running for the 2010 T S Eliot prize. Walcott took it (Heaney had already won the Forward Prize). Both in their 70s, I've noticed one distinct difference: Walcott's White Egrets, to me, has stonger roots in the present - while mourning lost friends he also hails new and younger ones. The present looks to a future, in his own death. Heaney, on the other hand, in Human Chain, while writing poems in the present, to me seems to look more distinctly to the past - as in the lovely poem about the Conway Stewart fountain pen. Maybe just an impression ...

martedì 25 gennaio 2011

T S Eliot Prize 2010

Derek Walcott with White Egrets took the TS Eliot Prize 2010. Here are some comments:

* How very safe the winner of the TS Eliot prize is! - Andrew Taylor
* ... a great few months for Faber poets: Derek Walcott (T. S. Eliot Prize); Seamus Heaney (Forward) & Jo Shapcott (Costa Poetry). The triple! - Faber & Faber
* "It took us not very long to decide that this collection was the yardstick by which all the others were to be measured. These are beautiful lines; beautiful poetry," said Anne Stevenson, chairman of the jury.
* There's a lot of flimsy poetry out there tossed around as "magnificent" in Emperor's Best Clothes style ... Seeing Stars (Armitage) and The Mirabelles (Freud), frankly, were over-rated, Human Chain (Heaney) had already won something and I have not read the others. At least White Egrets had some substance ...Peter Eustace

lunedì 17 gennaio 2011

Lettura di Poesie / Poetry Reading

In attesa della presentazione ufficiale, ecco un anteprima di "Weathering - L'Effetto del Tempo"

martedì 11 gennaio 2011

Book Review – Grand Old Man on a Grand Tour of Italy

Derek Walcott
White Egrets
Faber & Faber 2010

Derek Walcott’s White Egrets sensibly has no cover illustration – just a bold statement of its presence. The collection contains a great many poems seemingly inspired by a long trip to Italy – which is just up my street since I’ve lived here for more than thirty years.
Walcott obviously has a long-standing relationship with Il Bel Paese: he is on the editorial board of Poesia magazine published by Crocetti Editore (if I’m not mistaken, the only one in Italy receiving the equivalent of UK Arts Council funds – other non-Italian board members include Tony Harrison, Seamus Heaney, Paul Muldoon, Tomas Tranströmer and Charles Wright. Quite an impressive line-up behind a rather pedestrian monthly).
“Sicilian Suite” (eleven poems), “In Italy” (twelve poems), “On Capri” (one poem) and poem n° 48 form a hefty chunk of the collection – and are not the only travelogues.
Walcott uses place and nature as a sounding board or something to bounce his thoughts off, so that his homeland Santa Lucia is inevitably mentioned in “Sicilian Suite” with the excuse that Lucia is also the patron saint of the Mediterranean island. Despite the title of the sequence, we get a mention of poet Pavese, who was from Piedmont, and Recanati, the small town in the Marches Region where Leopardi was born. There is also a mention of Salvatore Quasimodo, the Sicilian-born Nobel poet, and a certain Vittorio who I can’t quite work out. Walcott also very deftly uses place names to generate local colour: Ortigia (the historic island of Syracuse), Passeggio Adorno (a seaside promenade in the same city named after a Mayor and dated 1868) and Arethusa (a nymph fountain on the island of Ortigia), not to mention frequent mentions of Sicily and Sicilian. We also get “a Greek tanker” thrown in as the only hint of Magna Graecia. He communicates an instant sense of being at ease wherever he is and – something I like very much – warmly takes the reader’s arm like an old friend, never the eave’s dropper always the welcome guest. There is always a human warmth in Walcott even when he is admitting he didn’t treat his wives very well.
He has a knack of combining grammatical terms in hybrids with the natural world: “consonants of gravel” catches the noise of footsteps over loose chippings, “syllables of the trimmed orange oleander” suggests the elongated, pictogram shape of its leaves and “thick with prayers like the starlings repeating their verses” delightfully captures the congregation of birds at dusk. He also uses synaesthesia-like forms: “my memory’s nostrils” perhaps has a clumsy sound but is very effective and quickly followed by “the smell of words”. He manages to humanise nature without overdoing the pathetic fallacy: “as a bosoming wave unbuttons her white bodice”, “the clouds shone altar-white” and “an anachronistic blackbird in a frock coat” are good examples.
I also get strong hints of Byron, Yeats and Eliot. Byron emerges in some of the off-hand closures, such as “It wasn’t news”, but especially in the dashing rhymes. This quote rhymes with “Syracuse” - although he can be cheeky as well, using the Italian name Siracusa to get a rhyme with Arethusa and “I would lose her”. He can get away with rhyming “culture” with vulture” (as he does in another section where “profit” and “prophets” in the hands of a lesser poet would raise a groan). I get a suggestion of Prufrock in “the crab scrawls your letters then hides them” and Yeats’s musing on politics and young girls in “I’ll tell you what they think: you’re too old to be shaken by such a lissom young woman...”.
The other long section “In Italy” has the dedication “for Paola” (shades of Laura and Beatrice), with single poems “for Giuseppe Ciccherlero” and “for Roberta”. Another Prufockian pathetic fallacy here is “and a cloud like a tablecloth spread for lunch”, which then culminates in why Walcott seems so adept at taking things in: “because we are never where we are, but somewhere else, even in Italy”. This is another echo of Eliot to my mind. We get the terms of human speech mixed with the natural world again in “patroness of palm and pine tree whose/ alphabet was the swallows of Syracuse.” Yeats’s use of compound adjectives appears in “wheat-harvested slopes”. I don’t agree with “leaping cypresses” – this tree, while lithe, is far too stately to leap – but then “streets as close as chain-mail” wins me immediately back.
Walcott evidently enjoyed his trip around Italy – as well as the already mentioned places, he also lets us know he knows Venice, Genoa, Milan and Florence – and obviously enjoyed meeting and being with young people. But this is not a guide book (even though other sections take in Spain and Barcelona, London, the British Empire, the West Indies): the tour around the world is an excuse for a tour around the mind and soul. This is substantial, challenging poetry, even when it is gruff and grim or doesn’t quite reach the mark. This is my fourth reading – I’m sure there’ll be many more and I’m sure I’ll be buying other of Walcott’s books soon. Head and shoulders above the other titles for the 2010 T S Eliot prize.

lunedì 3 gennaio 2011

Book review - Not everyone thinks Simon Armitage is the Bee's Knees

Simon Armitage – Seeing Stars – Faber & Faber 2010

The jacket illustration says it all: a hotchpotch horse seemingly missing a hind leg with a dog’s muzzle, purportedly inspired by a poem inside titled “Poodles”. What is actually inside is a hotchpotch of non-poetry that leaves a distinct sensation that something else, and more important, is missing.
I hope Simon Armitage has his Yorkshire tongue firmly in his Yorkshire cheek. If not, we are being seriously taken for a ride. After reading four or five poems into the collection, the pieces become tediously contrived and predictable, at best, and at worst simply trite and silly. The format is endlessly repeated – a setting the scene followed by a denouement that quickly loses any surprise element.
The fashion for the long and ludicrous title is very much in evidence, so is flippancy, funny ha-ha jokes and a tiresome lack of real substance: no passion or compassion, no anger, no desire. The verbal fireworks fizzle out very soon to become mundane, obvious, matter of fact, dull and irritating. Word games that play the same dull note over and over.
You could right justify the margins and get 1 or 2 page short stories. The feeling is that they made it into print as “pretend poems” because they hardly stand up to analysis as stories. Once again, we get the popular prose-poem wool pulled over our eyes, where the whole is much less than its parts (i.e. neither prose nor poetry).
Despite talking about so many different lives, the overall impact is lifeless, constructed and soulless, like butterflies pinned in display cases rather than vibrant with flight.
What is missing apart from the leg on the cover? What is missing, as hinted at above, is passion and compassion – these portraits are cold and clinical, contrived and concocted. A mere exercise in creativity where empty, worldly inventiveness takes the place of insight or feeling in a spontaneous overflow of nonsense.
There are also a few “lifts” – from The Truman Show and Steptoe & Son, for instance. The style eventually establishes the subtlety of a hammer hitting the same nail again and again in a kind of gumbo “let’s write another creatively daft poem” approach.
There is a kind of selfishness in these poems, which makes a second reading very unrewarding. The reader is kept at arm’s length, patronised and merely required to acknowledge the skill and daring of the poet. Yet it all becomes terribly mechanical – and as you can see, I didn’t find one, not even one, line or phrase to quote.
We are living the F-Generation of poets: flimsy, flippant, fatuous and facetious.