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Intimate Chronicles

Christopher Middleton

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Imprint: Carcanet Poetry
Publisher: Carcanet Press
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  •     If someone barefoot stood in a saloon,
        His dromedary might be chomping outside,
        That majestic meal. High olive notes
        Plucked from a mandolin. Fumes. Leafgreen.

        A dark descends. There, with banana palm,
        Consorts forbidden music. Ugly. Ocean.
        Delay it.

    from 'Saloon with Birds'

    Intimate Chronicles is in three parts. In the first, against a background of destruction in history and of history, figures take shape. The second section contains poems about various art works as durable epiphanies. Poems in the third section work around figures that signify resistance, in large ways or small, to destruction, and endurance through it. Various historical periods are sighted or glimpsed through a personal lens and in a shifting perspective: those of a person now captive, now free. Each section centres on transformation, metamorphosis, Middleton's perennial theme. The poems can be read as miniatures that refract and enact moments of transformation in an imagination awake to larger, more gradual, encompassing transformations. It is they that, historically measured or figuring as cosmic events, erupt in the instant of speech and, more precisely, in the fragile and eccentric instrumentation of speech to which poetry aspires.
    Christopher Middleton, born in Cornwall in 1926, is a poet and translator, especially of German literature. He studied at Merton College, Oxford and held academic positions at the University of Zürich and King’s College London before becoming Professor of Germanic Languages at the University of Texas, Austin. He retired in ... read more
    Praise for Christopher Middleton '€˜a poet with a disconcerting knack of making it new in almost every poem'
    John Lucas, New Statesman
    '€˜His work is at once rich and sparse, elegantly economic in its subtle shifts from discrete object to discrete object, yet, by contrast with mainstream English realism, striking for the boldness and brio of its imaginings.'
    Terry Eagleton, Stand
    'Metrically inventive and various, these poems are remarkably alive to "€œthe unknown thing beside us"€, they listen for "the due sound"€, and, as if watching birds, register "€œthe timed flight of words". A motto for reading Middleton'€™s work might be: purify the source, then trust to luck.'
    Denis Donoghue, London Review of Books
    'Middleton is amongst the most consistently inventive, original, and audacious of the so-called '€˜experimental' or '€˜innovative'€™ poets of these past twenty-five years.'
    August Kleinzahler, Threepenny Review
    'The poet's ancestry, his Englishness, is relegated without denial. But the movement, whether it is generated in America, Provence or Cappadocia, is always of encounter...if an eroticism, with the inner and the outer, a profound in-touchness with the multiplicities of existence... a mark of all important poets'
    Tom Lowenstein
    'Poems, translations, essays -€“ Christopher Middleton’s are among the most visited books on my shelves; always dependable for re-exciting the possibilities of language.'
    Jennie Feldman

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