This is Liam Guilar's Blog, mostly about poetry, mine and other people's, and anything else of interest. Over the years it has unintentionally developed into an online poetry resource, check the names in the sidebar but Bunting, Yeats, Pound, Joyce, Tennyson and the medieval poets get fair coverage. Lady Godiva and Me is a sequence of poems that linked Lady Godiva, both the historical Godgifu and the legendary Lady G, to a character growing up in the city of Coventry after the second world war.
You can see a short film about the collection Here.
Further information, full length articles and sample poems are available on my website Here .
'MacNeice also shared Eliot's love of music hall theatre and the music hall...the side of Eliot that danced The Grizzly Bear with Virginia Woolf (a video that we can only be glad, or immensely sad, will never appear on YouTube).' However, instructions on how to Dance the Grizz are. Imagine this is Tom and Virginia.
In which yet another promised book about Bunting goes missing. The publication date passes, and the book seller refunds my pre order because they can't tell me when the thing might actually come into existence. Might be next week, might be next year...bit like the promised Faber Collected. What is it with these people? I can buy Ted Hughes' pointless "criticism", and not only his thick volume of letters and his door step collected, but even his correspondence with Keith Sagar. There's a publishing industry surrounding the man: he hasn't been dead that long and a search on 'Ted hughes biography' on Amazon throws up 54 results. 54!
I want to know what Peter Makin left out of the Bunting Pound correspondence which he quotes and which I've been using, and the only way I can do that is to go to America and shift through various collections in various libraries. Come to think of it, this is not a bad idea if anyone wants to fund it. I'm a medievalist by training, we are good at sifting in libraries. I volunteer to go to the USA, search through collections, scan them all and upload them electronically as pdfs and to hell with the publishing industry. (With apologies to Bunting's insistence his letters should be burnt.) On a less grumbling note what does it say about the reality of the poetry world if blurbs keep saying "generally regarded as one of the great British poets of the 20th century" and no publisher is willing to publish anything about him?
Incorrigibly Plural: Louise MacNeice and His legacy. Carcanet 2012
"Incorrigibly Plural celebrates the diversity and vitality of Louis MacNeice's writing. Poets and critics illuminate the work of a writer whose achievement and influence is increasingly recognised as central to modern poetry in English" (From the Blurb)
The reinvention, rediscovery or re
evaluation of Louis MacNeice is an ongoing project and for lovers of his poetry
fascinating to watch.Peter
MacDonald's beautiful "Collected’ is as much a part of it as this book of
essays.However, attempts to claim
centrality and significance for his work run into two problems: the first is
simply one of evidence. The second, the inevitable problem caused by multiple,
contending and often hostile modern poetics fractured and smeared to all points
of the compass. It's difficult to imagine any poet who could be "Central
to [all] modern poetry in English".
He wrote one of my favourite poems, the
first poem I consciously learnt by heart for no reason than the pleasure of it
in about 1975. I’d take him over Auden any day of the week.But a quick shift through the books on
hand provides the following standard readings:
A thirties poet, a school boy poet,a name tacked onto a list that started
“Auden, Spender, Day-Lewis…” as though he wasn’t quite as important or as
interesting as the others or wasn’t distinct enough to make it on his own.
There is no mention of him in Kenner’s “The
Sinking island” although the thirties get their own chapter. Nor does he rate a
mention in “A Colder Eye: the Modern Irish writers.” Rosenthal and Gall don’t discuss Autumn Journal but they don’t do The Great Hunger either.
Typical of most surveys is MacNeice’s appearances in Michael Alexander’s “A
History of English Literature”: a name in a group (without him the MacSpaundayjibe doesn’t work): ”Day-Lewis is
remembered for his versions of Vergil. He became Laureate in 1968, and Spender
was knighted for services to literature. Isherwood was clever, MacNeice
talented, Auden Major.” Though he
does get a whole sentence to himself: “MacNeice wrote an open, journalistic,
colloquial verse of his own, notably in Autumn
Journal about 1938-9).” But
this sentence leads off a two page section on W.H.Auden. (It’s more than
Bunting gets: he doesn’t even rate a mention).
He is always either qualifying a discussion
of Auden or lurking in the background.Michael Schmidt gives him four pages in The Lives of the Poetsand
his summing up seems judicious even if it seems to suggest that he is worth
reading for his control of rhythm.He describes him as “Kavanagh to Auden’s Clarke”.
In the Cambridge Introduction to Modern Irish Poetry he
shares a chapter with Clark, Colum and Kavanagh…which goes to show how hard he
is to pigeon hole. And while Autumn journal gets some praise here it’s
the kind of “however” praise that can bury its subject.
The link to Kavanagh, at first so odd,is perhaps not as inappropriate at it
seems; both poets’ “Greatest hits” would sit easily with any other poet’s in
the twentieth century and both wrote a great deal that strains the reader’s
Michael Longley’s claim that MacNeice wrote
some of the best love poems in English is a hard one to argue with, and I’d add
Autumn Journal is probably one of the few successful long poems of
the twentieth century. Granted a
different type of long poem, with more in common with The Great Hunger than the Cantos.
But endlessly rereading Peter MacDonald’s edition of MacNeice’s Collected Poems there’s a sense that
there’s a lot there that doesn’t live up to the highlights.
So this new book is interesting firstly for its claim which
seems mostly unsubstantiated. That people turn up to a MacNeice centenary
doesn’t really prove a great deal and showing that Phillip Larkin was
influenced by him is hardly going to win friends and influence people.
Having said that, this is a fine collection
of Essays. Old fashioned literary criticism is thankfully not dead and pseudo
Derridean syntax not the only game in town:the writers, having something worth saying about poet or
poem, are at pains to covey that insight to the reader in clear prose. Good
literary criticism sends you back to what you thought you already knew to look
at it again.Peter MacDonald's
essay on "Cradle Song for Eleanor", which leads off the volume, is
worth the price of admission.Edna
Longley compares two 'Classicists', MacNeice and Graves and mines the Juxtaposition, while Glyn Maxwell
does a fine reading of 'Autumn Journal' and finishes his essay with a
succinct explanation of why 'Autumn Sequel fails'. He does it in one
Scattered amongst the longer essays are
shorter pieces: a short 'memoir' by Dan MacNeice, Derek Mahon describing two
meetings with Louis, modern poets writing briefly about what MacNeice means to
them.And an essay by Paul
Muldoon.Anyone who has read 'To Ireland I' will know exactly what to expect. Surrounded by the
other essays, the Muldoon’s familiar pyrotechnics look too much like smoke and
mirrors. And I would have traded it for a longer essay by Derek Mahon.
So this is a book of good essays, and like
fine books of literary essays will reward rereading. I don’t think it matter if MacNeice
was “central to Poetry in English” or not.Like most similar claims it invites too many disagreements
and nudges towards being silly.But this book does him the tribute of taking
his work seriously and prizing him out of “Macspaunday”.
And, given the subject, there’s also humor in the writing and
the sense that the poems and their author belonged in the real world, not in
the library.In an essay called:
"The ladies will say he looks like a poet; Tom and the selling of Louis',
Ann Margaret Daniel traces Eliot's dealings with MacNeice.She exposes the subtleties of the
relationship without needing to overstate anything.Those of us who have to stop occasionally and remember how
many ts Eliot stuck on his surname will feel reassured by the fact that he
consistently seems to have misspelled 'MacNeice'.
Discussing their similarities
'MacNeice also shared Eliot's love of
music hall theatre and the music hall...the side of Eliot that danced The
Grizzly Bear with Virginia Woolf (a video that we can only be glad, or
immensely sad, will never appear on YouTube).'