Welcome To Talking Verse

This blog is dedicated to discussion on poetry.

Poetry, on the European side of the Atlantic, has hardly progressed since the early 20th Century. Whilst in the USA poetry continues to evolve and present itself afresh.

Part of the reason for this is that the issue of poetry has been debated widely in the USA whereas in Britain, for example, you will be hard pressed to find anything that challenges the status quo of poetry.

There have been a few attempts: the Liverpool Beat poets made an short-lived impact during the early 1960s, but they could only offer a poor imitation of a style from the USA.

A handful of poets in the 20th century did make an impact. Basil Bunting and Tom Leonard shook up the established schools. But compared to the US the impact is small. Whilst other art forms have managed to progress over the years, poetry has stood still. Only the narrative has altered to keep abreast of the times.

Many people look to poetry to ‘tell’ them something; as if poetry were some form of journalism or propaganda. The laureateship of Carol Anne Duffy has only reinforced that view. But it is not simply a case of blaming the poets. Duffy is only responding to a demand that arises out of a society that pushes art for other ends, rather than simply art for the sake of it.

Today there is a wide awareness of poetry, the internet is weighted down with poetry sites that offer varying degrees of quality. Poetry is as valid as any other art form but only as long as it operates as an art form. Poets should not be seen as harbingers and the audience should look for meaning rather than rely on the poet or critic to provide answers.


This blog welcomes essays and book reviews about poetry. Please do not submit any poetry. If you wish to use a blog to submit poetry then I would recommend The Poets' Graves Workshop.

All submissions will be read and editing suggestions may be put to the author before being posted. Rejection by the author of any suggestion does not preclude it from being posted on the site.

Talking Verse follows no particular school of thought and has no other remit apart from the widest debate on matters of poetry.

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Tuesday, 11 January 2011

Selected Writings (New Directions Book) (New Directions Books)


It's beggars comprehension as to why so little of this giant's work is available in translation. Equally difficult poets of the period, Rimbaud and Verlaine, for example,  have had translations widely available for many years now.  But, until this volume, the only collection I could find, in English, was a slim volume, translated by Oliver Bernerd for Penguin Modern European Poets series, back in 1965.

This volume is most welcome. Unlike the earlier volume, the translator, Roger Shattuck, provides us with a bilingual collection. Shattuck also provides a better translation which captures Apollinaire's idiosyncrasies and originality far more sharply.

The opening lines of Zone, serve to illustrate:

For Bernerd:

`In the end you are tired of that world of antiquity

`O Eiffel Tower shepherdess the bridges this morning are a bleating flock'

For Shattuck:

`You are tired at last of this old world

`O shepherd Eiffel Tower the flock of bridges bleats at the morning'

Whilst Bernerd is correct about the feminine (maybe a redundant point), Shattuck is greatly aware of Apollinaires rejection of punctuation and manages to create a clearer image by allowing the lines to flow. Bernerd attempts to maintain the line length of the original and in doing so undermines the sensation of the poem.

This volume offers a generous selection of Apollinaire's poetry. It also contains some of his prose. as with many poets, his fiction was pretty basic. But his critiques expose a sharp and original intellect who was not bogged down by the modern world, as were the War Poets or T S Elliot, but embraced it with massive enthusiasm. He saw the changes in the art world, such as Cubism, as something that presented the world with a challenge: a new perspective that cut through the chaos of war and said :'This is how it is'. And Apollinaire captured that in his poetry.

Roger Shattuck has grasped this lust for life in his translations. Apollinaire is, perhaps, comparable to Whitman in his impact on the art of poetry. I hope that Shattuck intends to translate the remaining body of Apollinaire's poetry. It would be a great service to mankind.