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Faint Harps and Silver Voices

Christopher Middleton

Cover Picture of Faint Harps and Silver Voices
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Imprint: Carcanet Poetry
Publisher: Carcanet Press
Available as:
Paperback (220 pages)
(Pub. Jun 2000)
£18.95 £17.05
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  • Reviews
  • Chez toi, Mahmout,
    What humdinging
    Musical soires - coute:

    To singing
    Flies mosquitoes flute,
    And all the dancing girls are fleas.

    Ibn Sharaf (Cairuan, d. 1068)

    Christopher Middleton has been making translations for more than forty years: translation is part of his own poetic project, and he brings us with generous authority poetry from German, French, Swedish, Spanish, Arabic, Turkish and others, and from many ages - mediaeval to the present. His approach to each poet is 'appropriate': the general rule is to be true to the things that makes a poem unique, to avoid the temptation of 'translatorese' which applies familiar templates to all that is strange, difficult, challenging.
    He divides Faint Harps into thematic sections. We find poems on memory by Goethe side by side with Rimbaud's 'Memoire', Oktay Rifat's 'Foxholes', and Ibn Guzman's 'The Crow'. In 'Loves' there are extraordinary poems by Laforgue, Khlebnikov and Al-Mushafi as well as an outrageous piece by Albert Glatigny, who introduced Verlaine to absinthe. In 'Art and Artifice' Kurt Schwitters's 'The Dada Rotator' stands suggestively by Apollinaire's 'The Palace of Thunder'; Brecht consorts with Ibn Zamrak (fourteenth century); Oskar Pastior with Eduard Moerike.
    Middleton describes the book as 'something like a museum, but a museum that is informal, not monumental. If the metaphor be allowed at all, the museum houses culture-specific treasures, and it displays them in perspectives conducive to cross-cultural
    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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