Winning the TS Eliot Prize is hardly a matter of life and death. But the film of that name inspired Sinéad Morrissey to pen a collection which finally secured the UK’s most prestigious poetry prize for Belfast’s first poet laureate.
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Friday 15 July 2011
A new collection of essays by Karl Miller is a cause for jubilation, and this one comes with a bonus: a 31-page preface, or companion piece, by Andrew O'Hagan. O'Hagan's foreword, "The Excursions", sets the scene for much of what's in store. It describes a series of literary jaunts, undertaken in a spirit of homage and exuberance, by three friends, distinguished fellow-Celts, all endowed with the strongest instinct for allusion and assessment. ("Karl and Seamus sat on a bench and argued about the Latin on Vaughan's grave.")
Friday 17 June 2011
So, in 1983, I was 12, and my parents took me to see an actor who had been in 'Star Wars', performing in York Theatre Royal. I felt a little self-conscious as the lights went down, a harpist plucked out a strange tune, and then a single man, in fur and cloak, appeared under a lone spotlight. "Hear," he said, "Listen!" So Julian Glover began his rendition of 'Beowulf'.
Tuesday 19 April 2011
"As an artist, he has gone his own way, explored the Irish landscape and enhanced Irish landscape painting through the discovery andelaboration of an individual style," Seamus Heaney wrote in 1995 in a tribute to his friend TP Flanagan. The occasion was a major retrospective of Flanagan's work at the Ulster Museum in Belfast, in which the full range and distinctiveness of the artist's accomplishments were acknowledged and applauded. Atmospheric, elegant and enchanting, the works on show were an endorsement of Flanagan's high standing among Irish artists of the 20th century.
Tuesday 25 January 2011
A couple of years ago, I heard Derek Walcott speak at the St Lucia high commission in London to an audience largely made up of his fellow-islanders. As always, he insisted that pride in a place and a home should always combine with a keen embrace of the best the wide world of culture has to offer. "Art is as necessary as sewage," he said.
Sunday 12 December 2010
Friday 10 December 2010
"They've killed the show", moaned Melvyn Bragg when ITV brought down the kibosh on the arts programme that had become a revered institution over its 32-year (and 110-award) lifespan.
Friday 03 December 2010
This novelisation of a year in the young life of the poet John Clare is a testament to a lifetime's groundbreaking commitment to folk culture. A renowned folk performer, but a first-time novelist, Hugh Lupton is neither a prose stylist, nor a formal innovator of fiction. But he is a master in two areas: storytelling and English rural folk culture. Lupton knows Clare and his village of Helpston, Northamptonshire, as well as anyone, and reconstructs Clare's times with a rare conviction. The context, landscape, language and texture of Clare's life and landscape are re-imagined in enchanting and accurate detail.
Friday 19 November 2010
The Forward prizes anthology turns in its annual magic trick. Within a few hours of delight and surprise, it makes readers who have backslid on attention to new verse feel in the loop, and up to speed.
Friday 08 October 2010
This is a magnificent anthology. Its size alone (over 1000 pages) would make it outstanding, but more to the point is its scope and adventurousness. It achieves what might seem nearly impossible, a balanced view of Irish poetry from the earliest times to the present. It does a great job of sorting out the unsurpassable from the merely passable. It's undaunted by the magnitude of the undertaking. Of course, like all editors of anthologies, Patrick Crotty isn't without a quirk or two, or an idee fixe of his own. These are most apparent, perhaps, when it comes to contemporary poetry and the vexed question of who's in and who isn't. As Crotty acknowledges in his sterling introduction, it's inevitable that "eyebrows will be raised" over this or that choice. I would have dropped some and added others; but every reader, naturally, will have his or her own opinion.
Thursday 07 October 2010
The Irish poet Seamus Heaney won the Forward Poetry Prize last night, having been a runner-up on two previous occasions.
Friday 01 October 2010
Sunday 12 September 2010
Sunday 15 August 2010
This superb collection of short stories, memoir, artwork and poetry, loosely connected to the theme of "going back", includes contributions by Seamus Heaney and Joseph O'Neill, letters by Iris Murdoch and a recollection of his uncle's farm by Mark Twain. About as eclectic as you can get, then – but that doesn't mean unfocused.
Monday 05 July 2010
Saturday 19 June 2010
There were no blazing rows this time. After months of speculation and public controversy, Geoffrey Hill has been elected to the Oxford Professorship of Poetry – generally regarded as the most prestigious position in the poetry world after the Laureateship – by a landslide 1,156 votes. He fills a gap in the university’s teaching hierarchy left by the resignation of Ruth Padel last May.
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