Light-filled Visions from a Dark Past

The latest issue of Poetry London is out now, with the now-customary spray of brilliant poems and reviews.

I’m glad to have been asked to contribute a piece on two new translations, Simon Armitage’s The Death of King Arthur (Faber) and Jane Draycott’s Pearl (Carcanet).


On Pearl:

Draycott opts for a flowing, contemporary free verse, alliterating where the force of the original language pushes through, but open to new effects not available to her predecessor: in particular, subtle half-rhymes, and judicious use of line-breaks and run-on sentences to drive the rhythm – and the eye – forward. She  is also adept at finding moments of silence, pauses for thought in what can be an overwhelming text.

On King Arthur:

Armitage’s The Death of King Arthur shows us the other side of medieval literary expression […] this is a gory, macho fight-fest – like a Tarantino film with less irony and more chainmail.

I recommend both of these books very highly, perhaps especially the Draycott, because Pearl is one of the most outstanding poetic achievements of the medieval period and should be more widely read.

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