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The Anti-Basilisk

Christopher Middleton

Cover Picture of The Anti-Basilisk
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Imprint: Carcanet Poetry
Publisher: Carcanet Press
Available as:
Paperback (164 pages)
(Pub. Oct 2005)
£12.95 £11.65
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  • Sunlight ploughshare peeling away from earth,
        Over and over, topsoil darkness, please
    Brighten the buzzards at the breakfast table
        When they squat and chuckle: Let us prey.

    'Washington Fragment'

    In The Anti-Basilisk Christopher Middleton, in the spirit that impelled Shelley to write The Masque of Anarchy, reveals as crooked the apparently straight and sees what's coming round corners with a clarity that dazzles. Bruno Schulz in 1937 made an observation that might stand as epigraph to this collection: 'Thrones wilt when they are not fed with blood, their vitality grows with the mass of wrongs committed, with life-denials, with the crushing of all that is perpetually different and that has been ousted by them.' Certain dilemmas in such a prospect are implicit in the shady figures of 'Saul Pinkard' and 'Doctor Dark'.The Basilisk of the title is a sort of monster, all ego, atavistic and implacable.

    The poems fall into five sections, the first and fourth twenty-poem panoramas, the fifth a gathering of translations

    Table of Contents


    Tableaux I-XX


    The Anti-Basilisk


    Marienbad, 1814

    Remembering Mompou's Musica Callada

    A Short Elegy

    A Greek Colonial Bronze (Gordian III)

    Of F.M.

    The Black Basalt Tablet

    A Florida Beach

    Hair Shirt

    Infant Patriarch

    The Dead Friends

    A Cavity

    A Simple Dinner on the Terrace

    Entirely Owlish



    The Anti-Basilisk

    Waiting for Harvest Moon

    Some Words about Some Silence


    An Enigma Commonly Passed Over

    Acrostic: A Civil Art

    The Altar at Vaison

    With a Flap of Wings

    Memorandum from Gaul

    In Ruins

    The Paradox of Jerome's Lion


    Apropos Saul Pinkard

    Pinkard's Quandary

    Pinkard Bookish

    Pinkard's Song in Adversity

    Pinkard's Night Thoughts

    Pinkard's Haikus

    Pinkard Identifies a Lookalike

    Pinkard's Ditty

    Saul Pinkard on the Fortune of Musicians

    Saul Pinkard's Tirade

    Pinkard's Anecdotes:

    An Iranian Tale (1970s)

    The Village on a Tilt

    The House on Fire

    An Ominous Circus (Rome, A.D. 358)

    Pinkard Brings Hlderlin to the Awareness of Americans

    Pinkard's Postscript to Weimar

    The Proof and the Pudding


    Twenty Tropes for Doctor Dark

    Heavy Dog Sees Fish

    The Diving Apprentices

    Something Vesperal

    Lucile / MA 632883


    Buffoon Voice in a Small Port

    A Bat, Less Familiar

    Charles Meryon

    The Moon from a Box of Lokum

    A Far Cry from Fear Island

    The Digging


    Cassis, October 23, 1999

    Of Paradise

    Sybaritic Elegy

    Elegy of the Flowing Touch

    A Ballad of Arthur Rimbaud

    Envoi 127



    From Catullus: Ten Travesties

    On Hearing of a Death (Rilke, 'Todes-Erfahrung', 1907)

    Charles Mauron's Poem on Van Gogh (1945)

    Robert Desnos: Sonnet


    The Concord of State


    Tableaux I-XX

    The Anti-Basilisk

    Pinkard's Anecdotes

    Twenty Tropes for Doctor Dark


    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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