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E. Prestwich "Edmund Prestwich"

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Selected Poems
Selected Poems
by Jamie McKendrick
Edition: Paperback
Price: £12.08

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Odd angles and lingering pleasure, 9 Jun. 2016
This review is from: Selected Poems (Paperback)
For me the absolutely outstanding poems in this book are "Out There", "The Carved Buddha", "The Meeting House" and "The Literalist" from the "Out There" collection, "Obit." from "Crocodiles & Obelisks" and "Chrome Yellow" from "Ink Stone". Other people will have other favourites, of course, but I find these six endlessly rereadable, giving me fresh delight every time (I should say that I've been reading them since they first came out, not just since the publication of this Selected Poems).

There's nothing in the second half of the book that I don't enjoy returning to though. McKendrick has a really quirky, individual imagination, sharp intelligence, a sense of humour that runs through pretty well everything he writes, wide horizons, endless curiosity ... The poems are nearly all short (many sonnet length) but they seem longer because there's such a lively play of feelings and ideas within them.

The first half is more uneven in quality. Some of the early pieces are quite slight and show a poet feeling his way. Many are striking in their own right, though, some are haunting, and pretty well all gave me real pleasure.


Bacchae and Other Plays (Oxford World's Classics)
Bacchae and Other Plays (Oxford World's Classics)
by Euripides
Edition: Paperback
Price: £4.49

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Awkward rendering, 17 April 2016
In terms of sheer readability, I find Philip Vellacott's translations in the old Penguin Classics editions vastly superior to James Morwood's in this Oxford World's Classics edition. I've given this volume a three star rating because the plays are well worth reading in themselves, and the ones I've seen are enormously powerful on stage, but I'd certainly recommend getting hold of Vellacott's versions if at all possible, perhaps using this one as a supplement for the sake of the more up to date introduction and notes, and because it includes the interesting "Rhesus", which as far as I know Vellacott hasn't done.
I'm not in a position to compare the translations in terms of how closely they adhere to the original Greek, but comparing the openings of the two versions of Bacchae will show what I mean about readability:

Vellacott: "I am Dionysus, son of Zeus. My mother was Semele, daughter of Cadmus: I was delivered from her womb by the fire of a lightning-flash."

Morwood: "I am the son of Zeus, Dionysus. Semele, the daughter of Cadmus, bore me once in a birth precipitated by the lightning flame."

"The son of Zeus, Dionysus" is clumsy enough in itself, but the decision to give that run of three separate names together seems to me inexplicable.

Morwood doesn't translate the sung passages as verse, though confusingly he does set them out in lines ("This is a prose translation. However, lyrical and choric passages - intended for sung or chanted performance - have been laid out on shorter lines. These will inevitably have the appearance of free verse, but the translator's aim has been simply to denote the distinction between the spoken and sung or chanted areas of the play." Why, I wonder, couldn't italics have done the job?) Vellacott does use rhyming verse for such passages, and again this adds to the pleasure and vividness of the reading experience, though I don't know what it may have cost in terms of strict accuracy of translation.


Dante: A Life in Works
Dante: A Life in Works
by Robert Hollander
Edition: Paperback
Price: £14.99

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Not for the general reader, 2 Aug. 2015
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This review is from: Dante: A Life in Works (Paperback)
Hollander Dante a Life in Works

This is decidedly not a book for the general reader, even for the general reader who knows Dante’s Comedy fairly well. Its target audience is clearly other professional Dante scholars and post-graduate students. I’m not qualified to judge how good it is in that respect.
My biggest disappointment, approaching it as a general reader, was that it had so little to say about the poetry of the Comedy itself, or about its imaginative world. Prue Shaw’s Reading Dante: From Here to Eternity is brilliantly illuminating in that way, bringing together vivid discussions of historical background, profound critical sensitivity, and scholarly knowledge of Dante’s language and his intellectual background. Barbara Reynolds’ Dante: The Poet, the Political Thinker, the Man doesn’t have the stylistic and presentational flair that makes Reading Dante so gripping, but it’s richly satisfying and informative. The Hainsworth and Robey Very Short Introduction is very brief but they too write extremely well about Dante’s poetry and imaginative procedures. I’d recommend any of those to my fellow general readers. I’ve found Hollander himself very valuable in the immensely scholarly and interesting notes he’s supplied in his and his wife’s translation of the Comedy, which is the translation of the whole work I read most. However, I think his essential bent is scholarly, not aesthetic or imaginative, concerned with the establishment of facts rather than with ways of seeing, so that both in the notes to the translations and in this book he seems to come into his own when he’s surveying bibliographical evidence or summarising scholarly debates and assessing arguments, not when trying to communicate the power of the poetry, though I did find some of what he said about the development of Dante’s lyrical voice intriguing.


Dante: A Very Short Introduction (Very Short Introductions)
Dante: A Very Short Introduction (Very Short Introductions)
by Peter Hainsworth
Edition: Paperback
Price: £4.99

2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars This is an excellent introduction within the limits of the Very Brief Introduction ..., 9 Jun. 2015
This is an excellent introduction within the limits of the Very Brief Introduction format.
The limitations first. Background information has to be presented in a highly compressed and summary form. The authors' discussion of such material is clear and efficient but dry and probably really only of much use to the Dante tyro.
Now the achievement. If I’d never read a word of Dante’s work, the first few pages would have made me feel I was beginning to understand why his ideas still matter, why he’s a giant among poets, and what huge gifts he had for narrative and drama. At the same time, I think the subtlety and sensitivity of the authors’ readings at this point and everywhere else where they focus on particular passages would offer stimulating suggestions to even the most experienced Danteans.


The Poet's Tale: Chaucer and the year that made The Canterbury Tales
The Poet's Tale: Chaucer and the year that made The Canterbury Tales
by Paul Strohm
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £6.36

1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Clear, intelligent and interesting, 8 Jun. 2015
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I found this book interesting and definitely worth the money and time I invested in it.
Strohm writes with apparent ease and with exemplary clarity. He brings the streets of fourteenth century London to life and gives a poignant sense of what to a modern reader must seem the startling squalor and discomfort of the circumstances in which Troilus wrote most of the work preceding The Canterbury Tales. He writes briefly but very interestingly about the revolutionary conception of the Tales (he calls it the "sudden grasp of a new principle that permits an artistic breakthrough"). He convincingly contrasts Chaucer's collection of tales with those in Boccaccio's Decameron and in The Arabian Nights in terms of the varied nature of Chaucer's audience and tale tellers. So definitely a book worth reading.
However, although I've seen The Poet's Tale compared to James Shapiro's 1599: A Year in the Life of William Shakespeare, I don't think it can touch 1599 in terms of the sheer detail and vividness of the historical background Shapiro supplies, the grip and excitement of his narrative or the way the particular historical circumstances Shapiro brings to light transfigured my sense of Shakespeare's play.
Strohm also writes fascinatingly, though again briefly, about the way changes in scribal culture created conditions for a much wider diffusion of Chaucer's work in the generation after his death than Chaucer himself could have envisaged in his life, and about the changing status of English as a literary language.
He makes several comparisons between Chaucer's modesty and Dante's attention-seeking. I felt there were missed opportunities for cultural comparisons here and contrasts between the social positions of the two poets. Perhaps unfairly, the invoking of Dante also brought Strohm's book more under the shadow of Prue Shaw's brilliant Reading Dante than it need have been.


Airmail: the Letters of Robert Bly and Tomas Transtromer
Airmail: the Letters of Robert Bly and Tomas Transtromer
by Tomas Transtromer
Edition: Paperback
Price: £15.00

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Revelation and delight, 14 Dec. 2014
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I'm currently a bit over half way through this book, which has been a delightful bedtime companion for about a week now. Hats off to Bloodaxe for their presentation, for the generous spacing, clear print and good paper quality that allow the words to breathe so easily.
"Airmail" is absorbing and extremely enjoyable simply as the story of the developing relationship of two highly intelligent, highly articulate, sympathetic men, their daily lives and their emotional and intellectual responses in a fraught period of time as they reach across the cultural gap between Sweden and America. I think it would make a compelling human story on this level even if you had no particular interest in the poetry of Bly or Transtromer or in the issues of translation.
If like me you're compelled to enjoy Transtromer's wonderful, reticent and deeply strange poetry only in English translation there's also an intense interest in the detailed commentary on Bly's (and sometimes other people's) attempts to render Transtromer into English, and vice versa. Both poets, particularly Transtromer, comment in very precise detail on nuances of meaning and association in their words that they don't feel the other has quite picked up. In an age when poets don't talk easily about their intentions this is revelatory.


Baudelaire and the Poetics of Craft
Baudelaire and the Poetics of Craft
by Graham Chesters
Edition: Paperback
Price: £29.99

5.0 out of 5 stars Absorbing and illuminating, 14 Dec. 2014
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Not having studied French at university but having a fair reading knowledge of the language and a long-standing though uninformed fondness for Baudelaire, I found this book absorbing and illuminating in just the way I wanted. Chesters' explorations of poetic effect were eloquent and sensitive, incorporating precise, detailed analyses of nineteenth century French poetics, language and usage without dryness.


Purgatorio
Purgatorio
by Dante Alighieri
Edition: Paperback
Price: £16.02

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Excellent translation and notes - shoddy physical production, 14 Dec. 2014
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This review is from: Purgatorio (Paperback)
It was probably unrealistic to expect such a thick book to be printed on anything except cheap paper at the price Amazon sold it for.
It would be an absolutely excellent buy for someone who wanted the whole Purgatorio but would only be using it for a relatively short period, perhaps for undergraduate study, annotating and underlining in ballpoint and basically finishing with it after a term or so.
For myself, I would gladly have laid out the extra money to get it in a physically better edition if one had been available. Jean Hollander's translation is clear and very readable. She doesn't attempt the terza rima rhyme scheme and she doesn't achieve the intensity that Seamus Heaney does in his Dante versions but then she seems to allow herself fewer liberties and is of course working on the much greater scale of the whole Commedia, not just a few cantos. I haven't done detailed comparisons but my broad feeling is that she strikes the balance between close fidelity to the original and poetry that reads well in English better than any other version of the Comedy as a whole that I've read. The layout is excellent, with good spacing between the tercets encouraging you to linger over them as self-contained units without losing the flow between them. Robert Hollander's notes are scholarly and very detailed but presented in an accessible, easily digestible way.
Although I have several versions already I will be adding the Hollanders' Paradiso to my collection.


Reading Dante: From Here to Eternity
Reading Dante: From Here to Eternity
by Prue Shaw
Edition: Hardcover

13 of 14 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Both compulsively readable and a book to read again and again., 17 Nov. 2014
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I found Reading Dante: From Here to Eternity compulsively readable both because of the directness, sensitivity and eloquence with which Shaw responded to the poetry and fiction of the Commedia itself and because of the vividness with which she brought the historical background alive. I'll certainly read it again, and more than once, both for the sheer pleasure of reading it and because it's so rich in information and ideas. Of the different books on the Commedia that I've enjoyed it's certainly the one I've enjoyed the most. It's probably the one that's taught me the most too.

In fact I thought it hit the spot on every level. It's crammed with knowledge and insight that are informative and stimulating even for people who know Dante much better than I do. At the same time, Prue Shaw has the great gift of being able to see things from the point of view of people who aren't Dante scholars and speak to them in a way that's neither patronising nor intimidating. Above all, this is a matter of clarity of mind, of knowing exactly what she needs to tell her readers so that they can follow her arguments and explanations clearly and emerge with solid knowledge and insight. I'd have loved to have her as a teacher.


Bodymax 20kg Kettlebell Cast Iron
Bodymax 20kg Kettlebell Cast Iron
Offered by Powerhouse Fitness
Price: £32.99

5.0 out of 5 stars An excellent tool, 31 July 2013
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I really like this - it's solid and well balanced, and being cast iron it's compact for its weight. The handles are smooth, so they don't blister the hands, but they're thick enough to challenge the grip.


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