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Robert Wells

Cover Picture of Lusus
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Imprint: Carcanet Poetry
Publisher: Carcanet Press
Available as:
Paperback (320 pages)
(Pub. Jan 1999)
£6.95 £6.25
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  • I had no way of desiring you except
    That you should be there, standing under the vines

    In the grey of morning, work not yet begun.
    I thought that you belonged with the early light,

    Calm, uninsistent. But when the sun came up,
    Edging above the hill-crest, blackening the bill,

    The liveliness hidden in you, quick and sharp,
    Made you one with the first beams needling the air
    Lusus is the Latin word for 'diversions', an appropriate title for this volume of classical poems, rooted in physical experience and in the occluded tradition of neo-Latin verse-writing, with its erotic and rural themes. The humanist allegiance in these poems transcends national boundaries. It is an allegiance, first of all, to language itself.

    The 'Monte Gennaro Epigrams' at the heart of Lusus, composed in exacting hendecasyllabic pentameters, explore a hill-landscape in central Italy and find in it metaphors for language and inherent forms of civility. The 'derelict ways' suggest an ideal, a 'hidden city' to be inferred from greetings, gestures, phrases, a city which might actually exist, to be returned to or rediscovered.

    Lusus ranges from youth to middle age. The scrupulousness of language and of feeling gives the poems a rare intensity.

    Robert Wells was born in Oxford in 1947. He has worked as a woodman, a teacher, and in publishing. He lives in France. Carcanet has published his translations of Virgil's Georgics and The Idylls of Theocritus, and five volumes of his poetry, the latest being Collected Poems and Translations (2009). ... read more
    Praise for Robert Wells 'Robert Wells understands how finely man and nature are moulded to each other... The healing loneliness of hills and waters, and the solitary figures who move among them - bathers, wood-cutters, hay harvesters - are the setting and characters of Wells's poems.'
    George Mackay Brown
    'Wells is a quiet poet... he inherits the tender, threatening profundity of Edward Thomas.'
    Anne Stevenson
    'Robert Wells's language is exact, the experience of the poem is deeply gone through, there is a constant desire to adhere to the truth as he apprehended it rather than to glamorize it. The inexpressible becomes expressed. At one point I started marking my favourite poems, but I like so many of them that I gave up.'
    Thom Gunn
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