Synopses & Reviews
"Birtwhistle shows that he has rhetorical power of the sort epitomised by James Fenton."Peter Porter
"John Birtwhistle is a master craftsman. . . . The poet's eye and ear are generally faultless. In every poem language is made to work hard; image and thought are wholly fused, with economy and precision. The technical skills, which are entirely admirable, may be deployed in hilarious playfulness . . . They are also at the service of more disturbing subjects."Ian Hughes, Poetry Review
Like many good poets, John Birtwhistle publishes sparingly. In his first collection for more than twenty years, he produces a dazzling array of poems on a range of historical, political, and personal subjects. These lucid, witty, tender poems, by turns serious and comic, are full of felicitous surprises and unexpected turns of imagination.
After a letter of Seneca
The poet pleads, 'Shall I read
a little more?' 'Oh yes, please do'
praying from our brain of brains
that the bore be struck dumb
"Alexander to Charon":
Here is my coin. You will know the face
That sent you cargoes of shades, in my day.
John Birtwhistle's previous books have won an Eric Gregory Award, an Arts Council writer's grant, and a Poetry Book Society Recommendation. Of his three performed libretti, The Plumber's Gift was staged by English National Opera in 1989. He has held Writing Fellowships at the University of Southampton and a Lectureship in English at the University of York. He lives in Sheffield, England.
Dennis ODriscoll wrote that in John Birtwhistle's poetry "a sweeping imagination ranges over past and future, pastoral and urban themes."
This is John Birtwhistles first collection of poems since Our Worst Suspicions
(1985), a Poetry Book Society Recommendation. In the meantime much of his writing has gone into libretti, including The Plumbers Gift
, performed by English National Opera. He has not, however, been neglecting poetry as can be seen from the energetic variety of form and tone displayed here. Birtwhistle accepts from modernism the duties of visual clarity, concision, and originality of phrase; but he unites this with a romantic commitment to feeling and to organic form. His subject matter is wide-ranging as ever, but shows a new intensity about the the life cycle.
John Birtwhistle is a master craftsman... an impressive variety of forms, expertly handled with elegance and wit. The poet's eye and ear are generally faultless. In every poem language is made to work hard; image and thought are wholly fused, with economy and precision.'
Ian Hughes on Tidal Models in Poetry Review
About the Author
John Birtwhistle was born in 1946. Anvil has published four collections of his poetry. His writing has been recognized by an Eric Gregory Award, an Arts Council bursary, an Arts Council creative writing fellowship (1976-77, renewed for 1977-78), a writing fellowship at the University of Southampton (1978-80) and a Poetry Book Society Recommendation for Our Worst Suspicions (1985). He has had three concert libretti set and performed; of these, David Blakes The Plumbers Gift was staged by English National Opera and broadcast on Radio 3. From 1980, he was a Lecturer in English at the University of York before deciding to concentrate on bringing up his children. Since 1992 he has lived in Sheffield with his wife, son and daughter.