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Poems and Melodramas

Donald Davie

Cover Picture of Poems and Melodramas
Imprint: Carcanet Poetry
Publisher: Carcanet Press
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  • Tragedian of an Italy unborn,
    He cudgelled himself for having prostituted
    The buskin to the tiara; that's to say,
    His play to the scrutiny of the Holy Father.

    Later he learned how much more tolerant an
    Unpolished pontiff was, than a godless State
    That asked a theatre for Everyman,
    The man first dulled, then frivolously diverted.

    Later again (we look beyond him now)
    The buskin throve by dirtying -- the tiara
    And then the Cross; which lives by seeing how
    Unwearyingly the Father's sons revile him.

    'Alfieri', from 'Our Father'

    Shortly before his death in 1995, Donald Davie sent his publisher the poem 'Our Father'. This ten-part meditation broke a poetic silence which had stretched from 1988, when with To Scorch or Freeze, the writer declared his work as a poet finished. He continued to write essays and to add from time to time to his verse 'Melodramas', with their roots in Landor and Leopardi.

    It is clear that the Muse had not finished with Davie at all; a body of poems gathered sufficient for a remarkable book, extending the concerns of his late years -- concerns with 'the sacred', with England, and with our vexed age. In Poems and Melodramas his voice sounds with a humane insistence on clarity and definition, and the uneasy certainties of a faith hard-won.
    Born in Barnsley in 1922, Donald Davie served in the Navy and studied at Cambridge, becoming Professor of English at Essex, and later at Stanford and Vanderbilt. In 1988 he returned to England where he died in 1995. Carcanet's uniform Collected Works of Donald Davie includes Collected Poems (1990), Under Briggflatts ... read more
    Praise for Donald Davie 'From the publication of his debut collection of poems in 1955 until his passing in 1995, Donald Davie enjoyed a doubly excellent reputation as a critic and a poet... Sinéad Morrissey's Selected Poems gives an admirably rounded picture of his work and guides the reader through the editor's well-judged inclusions with a succinct introduction.'
    N.S. Thompson, The TLS
    'This is very unusual, essential and distinctive poetry of a kind we so often don't see. Davie had a well developed sense of his own outlook and it does come through in quite complex and multifaceted ways.'
    Clark Allison, Stride Magazine
    'This is a sampler of one of the major poets of the last generation that has been assembled by leaning into the proclivities of one of the major poets of our own... if you have read none of Davie's poetry before, you have a small, perfectly formed, ever-expanding universe to explore.'
    Rory Waterman, The Friday Poem

    'This is an accessible exploration of Davie's work. And it makes me want to read more, so this taster selection clearly works. It is an important reminder of the great writer he was, and how relevant he still is, nearly thirty years after his death. Morrissey's introduction is clear-eyed and intelligent, a perfect primer'
    James Nash, Everybody's Reviewing
    'He has drawn a map of modernism, starting with Hardy and Pound, that remains one of the definitive outlines of twentieth-century experiment in form and language. The mapmaker, in this case,is a notable locus on the map.'
    Helen Vendler
    `These poems thrive on the restless energy that drives their author on from form to form and place to place. Few poets are more likely than Davie to persuade new readers that poetry can still be a matter of concern and pleasure.'
    Martin Dodsworth, The Guardian
    'In his criticism, he has drawn a map of modernism, starting with Hardy and Pound, that remains one of the definitive outlines of twentieth-century experiment in form and language.'
    Helen Vendler
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