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Familiar Spirits

Elizabeth Jennings

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Imprint: Carcanet Poetry
Publisher: Carcanet Press
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  • A real place is built. The architects
    Consider light and shade, the climate too.
    Dreams are drawn down to possibilities
    And men consider little human acts
    And needs. The greatest cities always please
        But must be makeshift too.
    from 'Cities: Their Beginning'

    Familiar Spirits is included in Elizabeth Jennings' New Collected Poems

    The Familiar Spirits of Elizabeth Jennings's new collection of poems are those of the changing seasons, the good and the unsettling ghosts of the past, and the gracious familiars who console and instruct. There are parents, but also a beloved sister whose life has run its different course parallel to the poet's, and through whom she can infer a different world. This book revisits childhood and finds forgotten voices, discovering devotion, and giving as generously as Jennings always does a candid, reciprocal grace. The world of urban violence persists nearby, and she dwells with fascination on aspects of love which can grow, fray and snap, and those which survive in an age of troubled values.
        Familiar Spirits includes sonnets, lyrical poems, and writing which, as so often in Jennings, experiments with longer cadences and with a free verse indebted to William Carlos Williams. But her characteristic eloquence is formal, metrical, taut, the stanzas handled never mechanically but with subtlety and bending, occasionally makeshift, occasionally broken, by the pressure of feeling.
    Elizabeth Jennings was born in Boston, Lincolnshire in 1926, and lived most of her life in Oxford, where she moved in 1932. She was educated at Rye St Antony and Oxford High School before reading English at St Anne’s College, Oxford, where she began a B.Litt., but left to pursue a ... read more
    Praise for Elizabeth Jennings 'Anyone who likes poetry will love it if you get them Carcanet's Collected Poems of Elizabeth Jennings. It costs a bit but you do get well over 1,000 poems, with barely a duff one; heck, you could even give it to someone who doesn't like poetry, and suggest it will change their mind.'
    Nicholas Lezard, the Guardian, 1st December, 2012
    'But there is no sterility here: I defy you to read "A Living Death" and not be on the verge of tears by the end of it ("I am caught up / Within a death that does not die") This is a supremely dippable-into book. Its bulk is liberating, not intimidating.'
    Nicholas Lezard, The Guardian, Tuesday 3rd April, 2012.
    'Offers a broad selection of her best work ... in all its tenderness, insight and acute, stepping-on-ice vulnerability'

    Michael Glover, The Tablet.

    'it contains some of the finest lyric poetry of the 20th century'
    Anne Stevenson, The Sunday Times, September 14th 1986
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