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New Selected Poems

Vernon Watkins

Edited by Richard Ramsbotham

Foreword by Rowan Williams

Cover Picture of New Selected Poems
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Paperback
ISBN: 978 1 857548 47 1
Categories: 20th Century, Welsh
Imprint: FyfieldBooks
Published: June 2006
216 x 135 x 11 mm
144 pages
Publisher: Carcanet Press
Digital access available through Exact Editions
  • Description
  • Author
  • Contents
  • Reviews
  • Brought back into print in 2017 to mark the 50th anniversary of Vernon Watkins' death.

    Vernon Watkins (1906-1967) was called by Kathleen Raine: 'the greatest lyric poet of my generation.' Dylan Thomas referred to him as: 'the most profound and greatly accomplished Welshman writing poems in English', or, in a letter, as 'the only other poet except me whose poetry I really like today.' Philip Larkin wrote: 'In Vernon's presence poetry seemed like a living stream, in which one had only to dip the vessel of one's devotion. He made it clear how one could, in fact, 'live by poetry'; it was a vocation, at once difficult as sainthood and easy as breathing.' All Watkins's poetry was published by Faber & Faber in his lifetime, and he was friends with such widely differing poets as W.B. Yeats, T.S. Eliot, David Jones, Dylan Thomas, Marianne Moore, Philip Larkin, R.S. Thomas and Kathleen Raine. When he died, in 1967, he was being considered for Poet Laureate, after the death of John Masefield.

    Since that time, however, although a few have continued to praise his poetry very highly, public awareness of it has ceased almost completely, creating a bizarre gap in the perception of 20th century poetry.

    100 years after Watkins's birth (June 27th, 1906), New Selected Poems of Vernon Watkins offers the first widely available selection of his poetry since his death, with a new introduction and notes, outlining the literary and biographical context of his work, and a foreword by Rowan Williams, the former Archbishop of Canterbury. It is a rare joy thus to be reintroducing the work of a major poet to a new generation of readers.


    Table of Contents

    Foreword by Rowan Williams, the Archbishop of Canterbury ix

    Introduction xi



    from The Ballad of the Mari Lwyd (1941)

    The Collier 1

    Griefs of the Sea 3

    Two Decisions 4

    Stone Footing 5

    from Ballad of the Mari Lwyd 5



    from The Lady with the Unicorn (1948)

    Music of Colours: White Blossom 10

    The Feather 12

    Crowds 13

    Lover and Girl 13

    Gravestones 14

    The Listening Days 15



    from The Death Bell (1954)

    Time's Deathbed 16

    The Dead Shag 18

    The Shell 20

    Art and the Ravens 22

    Taliesin in Gower 24

    Ballad of the Rough Sea 27



    from Cypress and Acacia (1959)

    Three Harps 30

    Taliesin and the Spring of Vision 31

    A Man with a Field 32

    The Mare 33

    Hunt's Bay 34

    Trust Darkness 35

    The Exacting Ghost 37

    The Curlew 39

    Angel and Man 39

    The Tributary Seasons 41

    Moonrise 44

    Ode at the Spring Equinox 44

    Good Friday 47

    Great Nights Returning 49



    from Affinities (1962)

    The Precision of the Wheel 50

    The Interval 52

    Rewards of the Fountain 52

    Vine 53

    Affinities 54

    from The Childhood of Hölderlin 55

    Bishopston Stream 60

    Music of Colours: Dragonfoil and the Furnace of Colours 61

    Five Poems of Magdalenian Darkness 64

    Returning from Harvest 67



    from Fidelities (1968)

    Two Sources of Life 69

    Earth and Fire 69

    The Sibyl 70

    The Guest 71

    The Razor Shell 72

    Fisherman 72

    Cornfields 73

    Trees in a Town 74

    Sonnet 75

    Rebirth 76

    The Snow Curlew 77

    Means of Protection 77

    Vultures 78

    The Stayers 79

    Strictness of Speech 79

    Unity of the Stream 79

    Fidelities 80

    To a Shell 81

    The Beaver 82

    Triads 83



    from Uncollected Poems (1969)

    Air 85

    Second air 85

    The Coin 86



    from The Ballad of the Outer Dark (1979)

    A Dry Prophet 88

    Rhadamanthus and the New Soul 89



    from The Breaking of the Wave (1979)

    May You Love Leaves 91

    I Do Not Ask a Gentle Way 91

    Villanelle 92

    Though to Please Man 93



    Rarely Published and Unpublished Poems

    True Lovers 94

    from Sonnets of Resurrection 95

    Untitled 95

    Parable Winkle 96

    Attis 97

    The Melodramatic 100

    Aphorisms (Prose) 101



    Notes 103

    Selected Bibliography 113

    Vernon Watkins
    VERNON WATKINS was born on June 27th, 1906, in Maesteg, South Wales. During his lifetime 8 volumes of his poetry were published by Faber & Faber - with a 9th appearing posthumously. At his death he had won several major poetry prizes, was a visiting Professor of Poetry in America, and ... read more
    Richard Ramsbotham
    Richard Ramsbotham was born in Northumberland in 1962. He read English at Cambridge, and lectured in English at Warsaw University (1989-1993). He teaches Speech and Drama for a living. He is the author of Who Wrote Bacon? William Shakespeare, Francis Bacon and James 1. A Mystery for the Twenty-First Century (Temple ... read more
    Rowan Williams
    Rowan Williams was born in 1950. He was the 104th Archbishop of Canterbury (2002-2012). He spent much of his earlier career as an academic at the Universities of Cambridge and Oxford successively. Williams stood down as Archbishop of Canterbury on 31 December 2012 and became Master of Magdalene College at Cambridge ... read more
    'In Vernon's presence poetry seemed like a living stream, in which one had only to dip the vessel of one's devotion. He made it clear how one could, in fact, 'live by poetry'; it was a vocation, at once difficult as sainthood and easy as breathing.'
    Philip Larkin
    Praise for Rowan Williams 'His poetry opens windows on a rich and restless imagination.'
    Boyd Tonkin, Independent
    'Reading this poet, at such a period in our history, is like feeling the first drops of rain after a long season of drought.'
    A.N. Wilson, Daily Telegraph
    'It's serious, craftsmanly writing on faith, history and mortality - it's the real thing.'
    Sean O'€™Brien, Independent
    'The handful of truly successful poems here marry [Williams'] terse precision with an unwavering search for the truth, whatever it is, however elusive it might be' - 'While the dark melts''
    Times Literary Supplement 18.12.2015
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