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Ian Hamilton Collected Poems Hardcover – 7 May 2009


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Product details

  • Hardcover: 160 pages
  • Publisher: Faber & Faber; Main edition (7 May 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0571227368
  • ISBN-13: 978-0571227365
  • Product Dimensions: 14.6 x 1.8 x 22.2 cm
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 1,092,665 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description

About the Author

Ian Hamilton was born in 1938, in King's Lynn, Norfolk, and educated at Darlington Grammar School and Keble College, Oxford. In 1962, he founded the influential poetry magazine, the Review, and he was later editor of the New Review. He also wrote biographies and journalism, mainly about literature and football. He died in 2001.

Alan Jenkins has published five collections of poetry, of which the most recent is A Shorter Life (2005); he was a poetry critic for the Observer and the Independent on Sunday from 1985 to 1990, and is deputy editor of the Times Literary Supplement.

'A uniquely lyrical, passionate and sorrowing voice. There's no one better at describing a world by inference: his diction and cadences draw you in immediately.' David Harsent

'A great editor, a moving poet, and a critic of unfailing judgement.' Blake Morrison, Guardian


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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
"Where do we find ourselves?" 24 Sept. 2009
By B. Albanese - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This small "Collected Poems" arrives with significant critical comments and appendices to enhance our appreciation of Hamilton's work.

This work is reduced, dreamlike ( even haunted ) and resistant to facile enjoyment.
The dominant topics are his father's death and his wife's deteriorating mental health.
These poems, in their sparse, restrained manner summoned to my mind John Crowe Ransom's
"Winter Remembered", in particular the line "A cry of Absence, Absence in the heart."

The poems dwell in pain and frequently make one feel uneasy. I think it is fair to quote
Hamilton's comments from Appendix 2 on Auden's poems to get an understanding of the direction
Hamilton's poems would take us: "But I've never felt particularly moved by a poem of Auden's.
It's to do almost with a cocksureness in his use of strict forms.... So questions of tentativeness,
uncertainty, anguish--there's no place for them."

Well, those questions have found their place in this volume.

I would recommend the following poems as interesting and typical:
Last Respects, Epitaph, The Visit, Your Cry, Old Photograph, Anniversary, Returning, and Responsibilities.

Here is "Last Respects" in its entirety:

Your breathing slightly disarrays
A single row of petals
As you lean over him. Your fingers
In the air, above his face
Are elegant, perplexed. They pause
At his cold mouth.
But won't touch down;thin shadows drift
On candle smoke into his hair.
Your friendly touch
Brings down more petals;
A colourful panic.

The attention to the simple physical act of the "you" and its impact on the "him" (son to father) is simply expressed. Breathing--not touching-- disarrays the flower petals; the fingers, paused in the air, do not touch
the cold mouth. When touch finally occurs its import is to bring down more petals which results in that graceful compression of the "you's" psyche into a "colorful panic".
The original disarray brought about by mere breath has been escalated to a panic. That Hamilton conveys a
psychological state so dramatically and in such a terse way exemplifies what he does well.

"Epitaph" presents a Hamiltonian half-world:

The scent of old roses and tobacco
Takes me back.
It's almost twenty years
Since I last saw you
And our half-hearted love affair goes on.

You left me this:
A hand, half-open, motionless
On a green counterpane.
Enough to build
A few melancholy poems on.

If I had touched you then
One of us might have survived.

A physical stimulus brings the poet to a dual tenancy: he is taken back twenty years while he co-exists
in the eternal present of the poem. This tension suffuses the poem:

"Our half-hearted love affair goes on."
Note that the love affair is "half-hearted".

Indeed, the "you" summoned by the stimulus, is cited for leaving the poet " A hand, half-open, motionless".
Not a fully open hand, nor a hand that will ever fully open ( motionless ).

That the hand is on a green counterpane is interesting. Green is the color of growth ( and jealousy ) and the
word " counterpane" suggests a startling homonym: counter pain. This term can suggest that pain gets counted
and that there is a stance against pain. However lived in a half-world, this love affair yet could spawn a " few
melancholy poems". This would seem to offer the consolation that at least the poems are a generative fact in the half-world.

But the final two lines reveal this poem's haunting sense of permanent loss and damage.
It begins with the conditional "If"; it relates to the past-- "if I touched you then", and smashes us from behind
with a statement that is despairingly revelatory. Since the "I" did not touch the "you" twenty years ago that half-world really has no survivors in it. It is typical of Hamilton that the I does does not act, and even if it had, it would not have resulted in both surviving. Indeed the best hope would have been that one of us "might' have survived. The depth of this conditionality and contingency is the landscape one wanders in throughout these poems.
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