Sunday, April 19, 2009


I recently gave a reading of some of my poems at the launch of the journal Unusual Work. I was speaking to someone afterward, and they commented that my poetry reminded them of French poetry. There could have been no greater compliment for me. French poetry is by far my favourite, particularly French poetry from the 19th century. My favourite of this era is Stephane Mallarme, but others such as Charles Baudelaire, Arthur Rimbaud, Paul Verlaine and Paul Valery are close to my heart. I haven't consciously gone out to emulate these poets, but their words have permeated my reading to such an extent that it is natural their voices come through in my own work. And their biographies have also always been close to my reading table. The relationship between Rimbaud and Verlaine has always fascinated me, as has the life of Mallarme, which was much more mundane than those other two poets. I think Mallarme's 'A Throw of the Dice' is in many respects one of the first modern poems (apart maybe from those of Holderlin). A Throw of the dice has the loose and fragmented structure of much modern poetry. But what makes it really interesting is its style and substance is that it is very rooted in the 19th century. Modern poetry with its fragmented structures has associated with that fragmented meanings, styles and syntax. In 'A Throw of The Dice' you get a sense that you are reading classical poetry, but what you are witnessing on the page is never the less very modern. I think this is the appeal of Mallarme for the modern reader. We can get our fixed of stilted fragmentation, but we can still get the language of the classical poets with its resonances of formal structure.

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