Wednesday, 30 May 2012

So Bad, it's Good (well, almost)

I'm a big fan of Alice Oswald's work. It is imaginative and lively with lots of verbal energy and passion. Her subject is often nature leading some people to compare her poetry to Ted Hughes's (imho Dylan Thomas could be another correlative because she seems to be able to inhabit the dream lives of lots of other characters).

Her attractively produced collection in Faber, Memorial, reminds me of one aspect of Ted Hughes's work: its occasional godawfulness. She's stripped away all the narrative from the Illiad and left us with a series of descriptions of the deaths of minor characters in the story. The effect is mind-numbing, though after a while the absurdity of this litany of doomed people rushing into the book to die becomes quite Pythonesque. It takes on a mad cartoonish quality, but I confess this doesn't get me beyond the first few pages.

I really admire people who boldly get it so wrong and am looking forward to her next book.

In the mean time, don't buy this one.

Forget it.


  1. As a fellow fan of Alice Oswald's work I too was deeply disappointed by 'Memorial'. Adapting a classic text is always a risky endeavour, one of the main dangers being a risible parody of the original. Sadly (unless you can be sanguine about admired writers screwing up big time!) , 'Memorial' is a bit of a mess for all the reasons you provide above.

    I'd be grateful for a raising of the profile here, both for my blog and my recently published collection, 'Ancient Lights'. Blog: Book: or Amazon.