Poetry

Tom Eliot — a very practical cat. Did T.S. Eliot simply recycle every personal experience into poetry?

31 January 2015 9:00 am

The musical Cats reopened in the West End in December, with a judge from The X Factor in the lead…

The risks of being an Englishman on Burns Night

31 January 2015 9:00 am

I’m rubbish at public speaking and detest it. Even the thought of reciting an English poem of my choice at…

Old mill boards and sea-green slates: Yeats’s tower

On the Yeats trail in Galway

24 January 2015 9:00 am

The Go Galway bus from Dublin sounds an unlikely pleasure, but it is both comfortable and punctual. There is free…

Benjamin Robert Haydon’s portrait of William Wordsworth

Sunday roasts and beaded bubbles: dining with the poets

3 January 2015 9:00 am

In December 1817 Benjamin Robert Haydon — vivid diarist and painter of huge but inferior canvases of historic events —…

Why radio is a surprisingly good medium for talking about art

22 November 2014 9:00 am

You might think it a fool’s errand to attempt programmes about art on the wireless. How can you talk about…

Wendy Cope on hating school, meeting Billy Graham and enduring Freudian analysis

15 November 2014 9:00 am

A surprise! I took this book from its envelope expecting a fresh collection of Wendy Cope’s poems, and opened it…

We know that war is hell. But it doesn’t ever make us stop doing it

15 November 2014 9:00 am

There’s a plausible theory — recently rehearsed in the BBC’s excellent two-part documentary The Lion’s Last Roar? — that our…

Ezra Pound in the early 1920s

Ezra Pound – the fascist years

18 October 2014 9:00 am

‘There are the Alps. What is there to say about them?/ They don’t make sense. Fatal glaciers, crags cranks climb,…

Clive James on his late flowering: ‘I am in the slightly embarrassing position where I write poems saying I’m about to die and then don’t’

4 October 2014 9:00 am

Clive James has published a new poem days before we meet. It opens, ‘Your death, near now, is of an…

Peter Levi – poet, priest and life-enhancer

30 August 2014 9:00 am

Hilaire Belloc was once being discussed on some television programme. One of the panellists was Peter Levi. The other critics…

The biography that makes Philip Larkin human again

23 August 2014 9:00 am

How does Philip Larkin’s gloom retain such power to disturb? His bleakest verses have the quality of direct address, as…

Sorbet with Rimbaud

23 August 2014 9:00 am

The Bloomsbury of the title refers to the place, not the group. The group didn’t have a poet. ‘I would…

You owe it to yourself to visit John Clare country

2 August 2014 9:00 am

This has been a terrible year for horseflies. It’s bad enough if you’re human: often by the time you swat…

‘A Sounding Line’ (2006–7). Detail of de Waal’s 66 porcelain vessels in white and celadon glazes, Chatsworth House, Derbyshire

How good an artist is Edmund de Waal?

26 July 2014 9:00 am

For Edmund de Waal a ceramic pot has a ‘real life’ that goes beyond functionalism.This handsome book (designed by Atelier…

Portrait of John Wilmot, Earl of Rochester, with his pet monkey, attributed to Jacob Huysmans

Thug, rapist, poetic visionary: the contradictory Earl of Rochester

28 June 2014 9:00 am

Despite being an earl, Rochester is very nearly a major poet. His poems and letters were torn up by a…

My desert island poet

31 May 2014 9:00 am

If I had to be marooned on a desert island with a stranger, that stranger would be John Burnside. Not…

Very bad poems on the Underground

8 March 2014 9:00 am

My husband was surprised by quite a bit when we travelled by Underground in London the other day. Although he…

A learned poet's mystifying mistakes

15 February 2014 9:00 am

I enjoy Poetry Please, but was shouting mildly at the wireless the other day when a northern woman poet was…

Deserter, wifebeater, great poet: the shame and glory of Vernon Scannell

14 December 2013 9:00 am

Vernon Scannell was a thief, a liar, a deserter, a bigamist, a fraud, an alcoholic, a woman-beater and a coward.…

What would Auden have deemed evil in our time? European jingoism

9 November 2013 9:00 am

‘Goodbye to the Mezzogiorno’ was the first Auden poem that Alexander McCall Smith read in his youth. He discovered it…

Jonathan Aitken's diary: My life as a Christian outreach speaker

26 October 2013 9:00 am

The last time I wrote for The Spectator I was sitting in a prison cell. I sent the then editor…

A Strong Song Tows Us, by Richard Burton - review

12 October 2013 9:00 am

How minor is minor? ‘Rings a bell’ was more or less the response of two English literature graduates, now successful…

Dot Wordsworth's week in words: Did William Empson have the first clue what 'bare ruined choirs' meant?

5 October 2013 9:00 am

I am shocked to find that William Empson, famous for his technique of close reading, was no good at reading…

Music at Midnight, by John Drury - review

28 September 2013 9:00 am

When John Drury, himself an Anglican divine, told James Fenton (the son of a canon of Christ Church) that he…

Six Bad Poets, by Christopher Reid - review

28 September 2013 9:00 am

Is poetry in good enough health to be made fun of in this way? The irony is that this long,…