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The Bells of St Babel's
ISBN: 978 1 857545 38 8
Imprint: Carcanet Poetry
Published: September 2001
216 x 135 x 5 mm
Publisher: Carcanet Press
... pencil or chisel can't replicate
the rose in the mind's eye, indelibly true
north by needle ...
from 'The Pocket Compass'
'He has been a major voice at every stage of his career,' wrote C.K. Stead in the London
Review of Books, 'knowing what he is about, moving at his own pace, inventive,
unpredictable' In The Bells of Saint Babel's Allen Curnow, now in his nineties, is
unique in English-language poetry not only in the length of his innings but in the vigour
of his most recent work.
The Bells of Saint Babel's, his first book for four years, revisits places and
considers life's ironies, the chances and accidents that lead to 'here'. There are narrative
sequences, a sonnet, four free translations from Pushkin, and poems of lyric reflection. All
are marked by Curnow's close attention to visual detail, his lovingly severe interest in the
landscape and history of his own country, and his formal fluency and variety.
ALLEN CURNOW was born in New Zealand in 1911. His Norfolk-born mother was a collateral
great-niece of the poet George Crabbe, a curious fact from which (he says) no particular
conclusion can be drawn. His father was an Anglican clergyman, son of a St Ives-born
Cornishman, and great grandson of an Edinburgh Scot who (in the aftermath of Waterloo)
migrated first to Tasmania and later to New Zealand, where he settled in 1835, some years
before it became a British colony.
He has written many books of poems, distilled in Early Days Yet: new and collected poems
1941-1997 (Carcanet, 1997). He has received the New Zealand Book Award for Poetry six
times, was made a CBE and was awarded the Queen's Gold Medal for Poetry in 1990. He received
the A.W. Reed Lifetime Achievement Award in 2000.
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