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Gregory Woods

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ISBN: 978 1 857549 46 1
Categories: 21st Century, Gay and Lesbian
Imprint: Carcanet Poetry
Published: November 2007
216 x 135 x 135 mm
64 pages
Publisher: Carcanet Press
  • Description
  • Contents
  • Reviews
  • A quidnunc is a gossip, one who is constantly asking, 'What now?' 'Quidnunc' is a poem in which four individuals are haunted in different ways by what they have not forgotten. And Quidnunc is a collection in which, whether recent or distant, personal or cultural, the past is keenly felt.

    Woods writes with bravura and eloquence in free verse, syllabics and metre; the poems range from the barbaric civility of the classical world to the perplexed certainties of the present. At the heart of the collection are two dramatic monologues spoken by English writers, Lord Byron at the end of his youth and Sir Osbert Sitwell in old age. Both trace the complex intersections between politics, aesthetics and desire. Constantine Cavafy, Henry James and Marcel Proust, other writers challenged by similar questions, put in an appearance. In the struggle to come to terms with the formalities of love and the intimacies of aggression, Contingency wrestles with Fate, and history fades into enticing rumour.


    Civilisation            7

    The Cistern Sings    8

    A Triumph            9

    This Fastness            10

    Heroic Memoir            12

    Consuming Love    13

    Against Perfection            14

    Due Process            16

    Instruction            17

    Quidnunc            18

    Fiction  23

    Canon Law            24

    Descent            25

    Report Back            26

    Design or Accident            27

    Cablegram            37

    Budleigh Beach            38

    Those Years            39

    Heart of Cold            40

    Autumn Sessional            41

    Man on Train            42

    How to Belong            42

    Queer Pedagogies            43

    The Newstead Fandango            46

    Days of 1912            56

    Proust’s Way            56

    One for the Master 57

    My Zealotry            58

    Sir Osbert’s Complaint            59

    Negotiate Salvation            71

    My Sprig of Lilac     72

    To make comical history as serious as it is absurd in two sequences - €˜'The Newstead Fandango', where the story of Lord Byron is filtered through Ulysses's€™ home run, and €˜'Sir Osbert's Complaint', which puts the Sitwell family in the pillory while retaining sympathy for Osbert'€™s lonely end - €”this could only be Gregory Woods in action, the poet with the sharpest technique for social verse in Britain today. He lets off fireworks through the official groves of English literature.
    Peter Porter
    In this, his fourth, volume, Woods's dramatic range and technical ambition are greater than ever... His poetry has never been more alive.
    Giuseppe Albano, Chroma
    The poems of Gregory Woods have never failed to impress me. When a book like Quidnunc, his fourth collection from Carcanet, makes its appearance, it makes me seriously wonder what the selectors and pre-selectors for prestigious awards are up to. Why isn'€™t Gregory Woods's name up there? For a start there are few poets around who can rival him technically... Not only does he impress with his gift for sustaining poems over some length, he can dazzle with spectacular rhyming...This is a solid and hugely readable collection with many more things to admire than just the technical accomplishments... Woods is a poet whose thinking is razor-sharp, his wit highly inventive, his sense of history acute, his narratives finely sculpted, his feelings deeply sourced.
    Matt Simpson, Stride
    This new collection, his fourth, is his best so far, which, given how accomplished were the previous three, I intend as high praise... Woods is, indeed, a quite astonishingly gifted formalist. You feel that there's no kind of verse he couldn't use, adapt, subvert, play games with '€˜The Newstead Fandango' and '€˜Sir Osbert's Complaint' alone ought to be enough to have won Quidnunc any poetry prize going. And there are other poems equally deserving of note in this brilliantly assured collection. In fact, there's almost nothing that falls below the level of good, and several poems that are quite simply outstanding... When I think of the dross that is regularly published, noticed, praised, rewarded, and then consider that for the most part Woods goes without recognition, I'€™m not so much aghast as enraged at the (still largely London) cabal that decides poetic worth in England.
    John Lucas, Staple (Summer/Autumn 2008)
    Praise for Gregory Woods Woods' tonal range allows him to employ a number of different voices in a variety of forms: sequences of mythology appear side by side with lyrics of terse couplets. This is poetry with a decided edge.
    Michael Thomas, Other Poetry (Summer 2003)
    I suppose a Professor of Gay and Lesbian Studies has a professional obligation to write about these areas, but I'd have welcomed a few poems about trees or fly-fishing.
    John Greening, London Magazine
    In poetry I was very impressed by the technical resourcefulness and emotional range of Gregory Woods's The District Commissioner's Dreams.
    Adam Mars-Jones, Observer Books of the Year 2002
    By turns witty and coolly ironic, authoritative, sensuous and impassioned. The District Commissioner's Dreams marks an already accomplished poet varying his voice and extending his thematic range. As reviewers say: I urge you to buy it. Prepare to be impressed.
    Robert Hamberger, County Lit (Winter 2002-03)
    Considering it's written by an academic, the subjects dealt with are easily fathomable and will have any gay man smiling or crying with recognition ... A swift enjoyable read that lingers in the mind.
    Michael Laycock, The Pink Paper (13/11/98)
    Combines assurance of language with a range of erotic adventures. The writing is often witty in its precision, even while encapsulating a bold, and somewhat edgy, range of sexual scenarios.
    Alan Sinfield, Gay Times Books of the Year 1998 (12/98)
    Endlessly quotable - pithy, often epigrammatic and written with such cool control of form and irony that it chills the very passions it arouses... Woods' poetry is smart in every sense of the word: intelligent, stylish and stinging.
    Peter Klappert, Lambda Book Report (04/99)
    Gregory Woods' poetry is very good indeed... formidable technical panache... extraordinarily skilful with rhyme... 'This Bird, That' perhaps recalls Auden, but it has an intellectual sinuousness and formal dexterity that the master would surely have admired.
    John Lucas, The Dark Horse (Winter 2001-02)
    There is much to be admired and enjoyed in We Have the Melon... this is a book full of humour, horniness of a very innocent kind, and great tenderness... A promising start.
    James Kirkup, PN Review (03/93)
    Aware that erotically charged content may be best balanced by a coolly unemphatic form, Woods has come up with a luminous, suspended line... The result is a liberating discipline: wonder distilled and concentrated by containment... Woods has the knack of seeming constantly delighted by his experiences though not in the least deluded by them... The overwhelming impression of We Have the Melon remains that of frankly sexual joyousness matched by serious literary intelligence, a rare combination and a reassuring one.
    Neil Powell, Times Literary Supplement (16/10/92)
    Woods restores all the meanings of gay, mental and physical, has a fine sense of place and an engaging wit... It's the poems' honesty that stays in the mind, anchoring their flamboyant sensuality in a real time and place.
    William Scammell, Independent on Sunday (09/09/92)
    The poems of Gregory Woods fall into a Latinate tradition of poetry with a subject matter which might be described as pagan. They remind me often of the work of the Italian poet Sandro Penna... The subject matter may seem raw but in economy and beauty of expression they have a kind of purity... I have read Gregory Woods' poems with real excitement.
    Sir Stephen Spender
    I'm not sure that I had ever written a fan letter before to a poet I had not met, but that's what I did when I read two poems by Gregory Woods, 'Fall' and 'Silence', in a magazine. I admired them especially for their technical virtuosity, in that it was technique completely used, never for the sake of cleverness but as a component of feeling. In the sixty-line 'Fall' the rimes riches have a strangely bruising effect, which accumulates to a sadness which is difficult to bear. 'Silence' consists of two short related poems, somewhere between epigram and song, like Elizabethan poetry but in terms completely of the 1990s. I cannot praise it too highly... At last, a good book of good poetry which takes as its subject a frank and unsentimental homosexuality. The triumph is in the numerous poems in tercets. Taken together, they constitute a handbook of desire; separately, each is an exquisite insight, rapid and rich. The predominant tone is of a kind of delighted astonishment that mere sensuality can be so meaningful ... What an enviable talent Gregory Woods has. I recommend this book to everybody.
    Thom Gunn
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