Thursday, 8 December 2016

Two contrasting views of Alice Oswald's poetry

I'm grateful to Stephen Payne on Facebook for pointing me towards an excellent discussion of the relative merits of Alice Oswald's poetry on the Poetry Foundation website (see here). Stephen's initial link was then accompanied by top-notch debate, but that's now unfortunately being lost in the mists of social media timelines.

There's no doubting Alice Oswald's standing in contemporary U.K. poetry, but it's also clear that her work elicits contrasting responses. As a result, I was especially drawn to the Poetry Foundation's "Curious Specimens" format, which juxtaposes two differing perspectives on her verse as explained in the introduction to the discussion:

"Editors’ note: “Curious Specimens” is the second of a series of exchanges in which we are bringing poets together to discuss new books. The format is as follows: each poet chooses a book he or she can wholeheartedly support and writes an eight-hundred-word review of it; the exchanges follow the completed reviews."

Moreover, the two critics in question - Cate Marvin and Joshua Mehigan - tackle Oswald's verse from an American viewpoint, which is extremely interesting, as they thus approach her poetry with very different baggage from that of U.K.-based reviewers.

My personal opinion tends to coincide with Joshua Mehigan's take on Alice Oswald's poetry. That might well in part be due to the fact that I have long admired his verse and aesthetic. Nevertheless, Marvin's stance is also thought-provoking. Perhaps the best consequence is that their discussion has taken me back to Oswalds work once more...

1 comment:

  1. Dear Matthew

    My stepson Aramis, who had never shown the slightest interest in poetry, asked for an Alice Oswald volume last Christmas so her name has clearly reached a wider audience. To be honest, I have never quite got around to reading her myself. May we wish you and your family a very merry Christmas.

    Best wishes from Simon R Gladdish