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Jackdaw Jiving

Christopher Middleton

Cover Picture of Jackdaw Jiving
Imprint: Lives and Letters
Publisher: Carcanet Press
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  • Christopher Middleton in his third book of criticism includes sixteen essays and three reviews, drawing on two decades' writing. This is neither a monograph nor a patchwork miscellany: certain motifs develop from one piece to the next: there is (almost) common ground, outlined in the opening piece called
    `Imagination and Lyric Voice'.


    He brings to his prose the inventive wisdom of the verse practitioner, so that when he writes on translation, it's about the art of translating rather than theories of the craft. The conclusions he reaches are always provisional: what matters is the process of imagination and analysis by which they are reached, the journey rather than the point of arrival.

    Middleton's most celebrated essays `The Viking Prow', 1 and 2, are reprinted here, along with `The Pursuit of the Kingfisher'. Among authors specifically considered are Shakespeare, Coleridge, Holderlin, Mallarmé, Blake, Brecht, Eich and Celan.


    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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