The ‘country house poem’ was born in the seventeenth century as a fruitful way of flattering potential patrons. But the genre’s popularity faded – ironically, just as ‘country house society’ was emerging. It was only when the power and influence of the landed classes had all but ebbed away that poets returned to the theme, attracted perhaps by the buildings’ irresistible dereliction, but equally by their often very personal histories. This is the first complete anthology of modern country house poems, and it shows just how far (as Simon Jenkins points out in his foreword) poems can ‘penetrate the souls of buildings’. Over 160 distinguished poets representing a diversity of class, race, gender, and generation offer fascinating perspectives on stately exteriors and interiors, gardens both wild and cultivated, crumbling ruins and the extraordinary secrets they hide. There are voices of all kinds, whether it’s Edith Sitwell recalling her childhood, W.B.Yeats and Wendy Cope pondering Lissadell, or Simon Armitage’s labourer confronting the Lady who’s ‘got the lot’. We hear from noble landowners and loyal (or rebellious) servants, and from many an inquisitive day-tripper. The book’s dominant note is elegiac, yet comedy, satire, even strains of Gothic can be heard among these potent reflections. Hollow Palaces reminds us how poets can often be the most perceptive of guides to radical changes in society.
This is the first Selected edition from the work of this celebrated Lewis poet for over thirty-five years, and since the New Collected (2011) his poetry has rather drifted out of focus. Deer on the High Hills (the title comes from his celebrated long poem) attempts to reposition Iain Crichton Smith as a less exclusively Scottish figure, rather as a writer of European scope. The new book follows the trajectory of the earlier Carcanet Selected, but also brings to light some poems that this remarkably prolific poet had tended to sideline, and includes many previously uncollected. There is a full representation of his later, less familiar work, but the editor has tried to make a manageable and varied introduction for new readers, taking into account current tastes while not overlooking certain much anthologised favourites.
John Greening writes: ‘While respecting the poet-editor’s judgment, the way he ensured there was a balance of light and dark, I have tried to bring a fresh (not necessarily Scottish) perspective for those who feel they already have the measure of Iain Crichton Smith, while maintaining some sort of chronology. My intention was to bring out certain facets he kept in the shadows, as well as highlighting the experimental late work, the broader reach, the more international outlook.’
Learn about Iain Crichton Smith: Meet The Author: John Greening discusses Deer on the High Hills - YouTube
Sheds have come a long way since the man-cave cliché. These days, a shed is a far more democratic place – somewhere that symbolises the privacy and space that we all need. This anthology explores sheds from every imaginable angle. The poems take us to a child’s hiding place, a treasury of exotic implements and rich aromas and a retreat in which to remember the past. Derek Mahon’s fêted poem ‘A Disused Shed in Co. Wexford’ creates a mysterious inner world which seems to exist outside time. A shed may just be a place to keep the lawnmower, or it may be somewhere to escape to in order to write or paint. Sometimes it’s a haven in which to daydream when the house is full of noise and bustle. Elsewhere it’s:
This enchanting selection leads the reader quietly into private worlds and makes the perfect gift for every shed-lover.
GEOFFREY GRIGSON (1905-1985 ) was for many years a vital figure in the literary life of Britain. A controversial and notoriously unsparing reviewer, he edited the journal New Verse which brought W.H.Auden and other writers of the 1930s to prominence. His encyclopaedic knowledge of poetry and poets made him an anthologist of unrivalled scope and originality, and he was an early champion of once neglected figures such as John Clare and Ivor Gurney. He wrote authoritatively about Samuel Palmer and other artists, too. But he was most popular as a writer on the countryside, with works such as The Englishman’s Flora, his various Shell Guides, and articles for Country Life finding him a wide readership.
VOICES is a unique book: not only is it a highly readable anthology of some
of the most memorable and accessible international writing about classical
music, and a moving commentary by one set of practising artists on the work
of another. It is also something of a chronological guide to the great
composers, following the story of western music in the language which comes
closest to music itself – poetry.
unaccustomed to poetry anthologies will find in ACCOMPANIED VOICES the same
pleasure that they might find in simply putting on a CD and listening. Every
page brings something unexpected or illuminating, funny or heartbreaking. Here we begin to realise just how much Ted
Hughes or R.S.Thomas took from Beethoven, or what
Bach meant to First World War veteran Ivor Gurney or Holocaust survivor Lotte Kramer. We meet poets who have long been exploring
classical music (Peter Porter, John Fuller) or are musicians themselves
(Fiona Sampson, Gwen Harwood). We hear Ronald Duncan on Britten, George
Mackay Brown on Peter Maxwell Davies. But there is Norman Nicholson on Grieg,
too, Jo Shapcott on Schoenberg, Dannie Abse on Wagner; the poetry of a former Archbishop as well
as that of a former Poet Laureate.
music lover John Greening adds a substantial introduction and detailed notes
on the work of well over a hundred distinguished poets and their subjects.