Information about the poet.
Using these records and voices as a sort of poetic census, she creates a narrative of the river, tracking its life from source to sea. The voices are wonderfully varied and idiomatic—they include a poacher, a ferryman, a sewage worker and milk worker, a forester, swimmers and canoeists—and are interlinked with historic and mythic voices, drowned voices, dreaming voices and marginal notes which act as markers along the way.
Matthew Arnold praised the Iliad for its ‘nobility’, as has everyone ever since—but ancient critics praised it for its enargeia, its ‘bright unbearable reality’ (the word used when gods come to earth not in disguise but as themselves). To retrieve the poem’s energy, Alice Oswald has stripped away its story, and her account focuses by turns on Homer’s extended similes and on the brief ‘biographies’ of the minor war-dead, most of whom are little more than names, but each of whom lives and dies unforgettably—and unforgotten—in the copiousness of Homer’s glance. ‘The Iliad is an oral poem. This translation presents it as an attempt—in the aftermath of the Trojan War—to remember people’s names and lives without the use of writing. I hope it will have its own coherence as a series of memories and similes laid side by side: an antiphonal account of man in his world…compatible with the spirit of oral poetry, which was never stable but always adapting itself to a new audience, as if its language, unlike written language, was still alive and kicking.’—Alice Oswald
Weeds and Wild Flowers is a magical meeting of the poems of Alice Oswald and the etchings of Jessica Greenman. Within its pages, everyday flora take on an extraordinary life, jostling tragically at times, at times comically, for a foothold in a busying world. Stunningly visualised and skilfully animated, this imaginative collaboration beckons us toward a landscape of botanical characters, and invites us to see ourselves among them.
Woods etc. is Alice Oswald’s third book of poems, and follows on from the success of her widely acclaimed river-poem, Dart. The poems in her new book compress this uniquely ruminative voice into a dazzlingly various sequence of lyrics about the natural order and the individual life within. Written over a period of several years, these poems combine abrupt honesty with an exuberant rhetorical confidence, at times recalling the oral and anonymous tradition with which they share such affinity.
This is Alice Oswald’s first book of poems. More confident and achieved than many first collections, it shows her writing in an already distinct voice. The poems are intensely musical: she recites them from memory. Influenced by the rhythms of Hopkins, they speak passionately of nature and love. They have a religious sense of mystery, and try to express the intangible in marvellously vivid language. A long poem, ‘The Wise Men of Gotham’, which makes up the second part of the book, is, by contrast, a version of the folk-legend about the three men who went to sea in a boat in an attempt to catch the moon in the net.