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RRP: GBP 12.95
ISBN: 978 1 847775 51 1
Categories: British, Humour, Italian, Medieval
Imprint: Carcanet Poetry
Published: January 2014
167 pages (print version)
Publisher: Carcanet Press
Also available in: Paperback, eBook (Kindle), eBook (PDF)
Halfway through a bad trip
I found myself in this stinking car park,
Underground, miles from Amarillo…
Following his irreverent Oulipian reworking of Shakespeare’s Sonnets, in his new book Philip Terry takes on Dante’s Inferno, shifting the action from the twelfth century to the present day and relocating it to the modern ‘walled city’ of the University of Essex. Dante’s Phlegethon becomes the river Colne; his popes are replaced by vice-chancellors and education ministers; the warring Guelfs and Ghibellines are re-imagined as the sectarians of Belfast, Terry’s home city. Meanwhile, the guiding figure of Virgil takes on new form as Ted Berrigan, one-time visiting professor at Essex and a poet who had himself imagined the underworld: ‘I heard the dead, the city dead / The devils that surround us’ (‘Memorial Day’). In reimagining an Inferno for our times, Terry stays paradoxically true to the spirit of Dante’s original text.
The lineation speeds along at a nice articulated pace, the Dantesque pitch is right and propulsive, the cast of villains is energising, the balance between language and lingo, the allusive and the obscene just right... Berrigan the perfect shambling guide...
It is brilliant... the pattern and rhythm very forceful and the lingo just stunning.
'[Philip Terry's Inferno] follows Dante's narrative freely but carefully, moving constantly between colloquial and standard, rhythmically lively and effectively drawing the reader into the story.'
Peter Riley, The Fortnightly Review
'It is brilliant... the pattern and rhythm very forceful and the lingo just stunning.'
Marina Warner 'The lineation speeds along at a nice articulated pace, the Dantesque pitch is right and propulsive, the cast of villains is energising, the balance between language and lingo, the allusive and the obscene just right... Berrigan the perfect shambling guide...'
Seamus Heaney Praise for Philip Terry 'The English language is shape-shifting, and Philip Terry has turned onto its multiple modern metamorphoses to produce a witty, subtle and unprecedented fugue with variations. Shakespearean themes of love, regret, loss, and misanthropy gleam through a sumptuous ventriloquising of varied idiolects taken from the new media and the global infotainment traffic, seemingly infinite permutations of structure and syntax show a delighted agility and command of intervention. I am admiring, diverted, baffled, and moved by this original, contemporary re-engagement with the Sonnets'
Marina Warner 'Sparse by design, this poetry is a strong reminder of the power of words when allied to our imagination, experience and emotions.'
Prize Judges, New Angle Prize for East Anglian Literature 'Philip Terry treats the tablets like elements of code to be cracked open for contemporary eyes and ears. [His] version is original and powerful; he does not try to mend the fragments into a legible whole, but remembers the poem's shattered state.'
Marina Warner 'Though Terry's 'I' is all but absent, his eye is keen throughout, seizing on significant details of his wanderings around estuaries, around the old Berlin Wall, and finally along the digressive paths followed by W. G. Sebald through Suffolk in The Rings of Saturn. En route, Terry's precise [...] selection of language -- sampled from the vocabularies of biology, geography and history, among other disciplines -- offer hints and glimpses and conjectures about the ways in which these three modern landscapes have been shaped by their past and present inhabitants and vice versa. There is no overt editorialising, but rather a pervasive air of pensiveness that invites many re readings. These are poems of high ambition and integrity, and there is nothing else in the English language quite like them.'
Kevin Jackson 'These surprising and intriguing poems offer new ways of seeing overlooked places; of reading landscapes too often dismissed as illegible. Tonally adventurous, formally radical, sometimes witty, sometimes melancholically beautiful, they stand at a convergence of nature writing and experimental poetics.'
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