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One of the Guardian Unlimited Books' top 10 literary blogs: "A home-grown treasure ... smart, serious analysis"

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Blog entries on '16 February 2006'

Thursday 16 February 2006

Wood on Alter

James Wood reviews Robert Alter's beautifully presented and "remarkable new translation of the Pentateuch," The Five Books of Moses: A Translation with Commentary, in this week's London Review of Books:


Robert Alter eschews ‘face’ to describe the surface of the world at the start of Genesis, and I miss the cosmic implications, but his first two verses amply compensate with their own originality: ‘When God began to create heaven and earth, and the earth then was welter and waste and darkness over the deep and God’s breath hovering over the waters, God said: “Let there be light.” And there was light.’ The King James Version has ‘without form and void’ for Alter’s Anglo-Saxonish ‘welter and waste’, but Alter, as throughout this massive work, provides a diligent and alert footnote:

The Hebrew tohu wabohu occurs only here and in two later biblical texts that are clearly alluding to this one. The second word of the pair looks like a nonce term coined to rhyme with the first and to reinforce it, an effect I have tried to approximate in English by alliteration. Tohu by itself means ‘emptiness’ or ‘futility’, and in some contexts is associated with the trackless vacancy of the desert.

Posted by Mark Thwaite
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Thursday 16 February 2006

Hofmann on Lowell

Out in March, in Faber's Poet to Poet series, is Michael Hofmann's choice of Robert Lowell (1917-1977) poems. Lowell's Life Studies, published in 1959, is seen as a decisive turning point in American poetry, a turn to the confessional and autobiographical which, I'd argue, has not, recently, served poetry that well (how many sub-Plath emotings do we need?) As Hofmann says in his excellent introduction, Lowell was controversial throughout his writing life - and remains so. Faber published Lowell's massive Collected Poems in 2003. (More on Lowell at Modern Amercican Poetry site. Some useful links at learner.org too.)

Posted by Mark Thwaite
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Thursday 16 February 2006

Geoffrey Hill in Manchester

Geoffrey Hill will read his poetry tonight at Manchester Metropolitan University at 5.30pm (Lecture Theatre 3, Geoffrey Manton Building, Rosamond Street West, Off Oxford Road, Manchester city centre). Presented by the MMU Writing School and Carcanet poet Jeffrey Wainwright, this is a rare opportunity to hear Hill read in the UK, marking the recent publication of his new collection, and recent RSB Book of the Week, Without Title (Penguin). Admission is free; no advance tickets necessary. For more information contact Jeffrey Wainwright. Hill's Selected Poems is being reissued by Penguin in June.


The complete-review Geoffrey Hill page is a good starting place to learn more about Hill (as is the Geoffrey Hill Study Centre and the The Geoffrey Hill Server):


Not a simple poet, and not for everyone, by any means. Moral, Anglican, traditional (hidebound, some might suggest), Hill can easily be off-putting. He wins us over on the strength of his verse - he has a fine ear for the English language - and the rigor to which he subjects his ideas ... His subject matter is often obscure, but there are rewards there for the reader willing to work with the text ... It is poetry that provokes thought and that lingers.

Posted by Mark Thwaite
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Serendipoetry

Augustus

As you sow, so shall you reap. The bags packed,
Umbers and gold swollen between the purse-strings,
Getaway cars nose on a hot scent.
Under striped canvas the patrons gather,
Staring at blue, incorrigible seas.
The stubble burns a hole in summer's pocket;
Upon the baked crust of their world, the mice
Scatter their ashes to the harvest moon.

-- Peter Scupham
(Carcanet Press)

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Word of the Day

The Dord, the Diglot, and an Avocado or two

Pre-order Anu Garg's new book: The Dord, the Diglot, and an Avocado or Two: The Hidden Lives and Strange Origins of Common and Not-So-Common Words (ISBN 9780452288614), published by Penguin more …

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The New Spirit of Capitalism The New Spirit of Capitalism
Luc Boltanski; Eve Chiapello
Horizons Touched: The Music of ECM Horizons Touched: The Music of ECM
Steve Lake, Paul Griffiths

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