This special feature on European poetry is edited by Karl O’Hanlon and published online by Jack Quin, with contributions from John Burnside, David Constantine, Ian Duhig, Sasha Dugdale, Rebecca Tamás and more.
Our third issue has gone to print, and features poems by Wendy Cope, Adam Crothers, Chloe-Stopa Hunt, and others: we rely on subscriptions to continue, so please consider signing up for two issues at just £8 by emailing us at email@example.com
Our launch is on Monday 23 January at 6.30pm; Adam Crothers will read from his work. Born in Belfast in 1984, Adam lives in Cambridge, where he completed a PhD in English at Girton College in 2010; he works as a library assistant, literary critic, and teacher, and as a Commissioning Editor for the online magazine The Literateur. A contributor to New Poetries VI (Carcanet, 2015), he is also the author of Several Deer (Carcanet, 2016), described in Poetry London as 'a highly charged, word-drunk ride across time, art and idiomatic expression'.
We are delighted to welcome other contributors to the magazine to mark the occasion by reading from their work: John Wedgwood Clarke, David Troupes, Judith Wilson, Rachel Plummer, and Francesca Bratton. Eborakon is an annual poetry magazine based at the University of York that publishes new writers alongside established poets. Submissions for issue four will be opened at the launch.
All welcome, refreshments provided.
Location: The Treehouse, the University of York
Alex Alonso and Anna Mercer
‘Violent contrariety of men and days’; ‘So you spoke to the blood’; ‘Once more the truth advances; and again / the metaphors of blood begin to flow’: lines from Geoffrey Hill’s The Mystery of the Charity of Charles Péguy (1983) that leapt off the page, high-coloured and weird, in the weeks preceding and immediately after the United Kingdom’s European referendum last summer. How prescient they seem in this past year of demagoguery, like so much of Hill’s work; prescient, and ‘outmanoeuvred’ (a word he much favoured), a Falstaffian cry against the clean, business-like machinery of state. Arraigned against such unseen powers, can poetry be anything other than what he said it was in The Triumph of Love, ‘a sad and angry consolation’?
Hill’s poetic life was given over to an almost-childlike astonished joy at the intelligence of words – their intelligence, and their recalcitrance, which he believed sometimes bordered on malignity – what scorn he would have heaped upon the fascist PR word “alt-right”. He fought for the vital apprehension of poetry as the nervous system of civil polity. While he was unforgiving about artists’ oft-vaunted “solidarity” with the oppressed and marginalised (‘a sing-song, that is to say, cant’, he writes in the essay ‘Language, Suffering, and Silence’), he excoriated the vicious caprice and delusion of “apolitical poetics”, describing the posturing of W.B. Yeats’s infamous editorial introduction to the 1936 Oxford Book of Modern Verse as the strutting and preening of ‘a D’Annunzio in Irish tweeds’. For how the artist could show solidarity without hypocrisy or galbanum, Hill recommended the self-sacrificial counsel of Gerard Manley Hopkins: ‘give alms’. A poetry event in Brighton last December raised over £30,000 for the Refugee Council, a type of solidarity that the author of ‘Tom’s Garland’ would have welcomed.
What mattered to Geoffrey Hill’s grasp of the political in poetry was a sense of ‘polyphony’, an appreciation of which he found utterly lacking in the criticism of late twentieth century poetry. The same could not be said of Miguel de Unamuno, the Spanish (and Basque) philosopher and rector of Salamanca University in the years before the Spanish Civil War. In ‘Some Arbitrary Reflections Upon Europeanisation’, an essay that first appeared in 1906, Unamuno resisted an idea of Europe that was homogenising, flattening, simplifying, unreciprocal. His ferocity was that of the chess player’s retention of several moves in advance, the contrary, unimpeachable verdict of black and white held simultaneously:
I am profoundly convinced, arbitrarily of course – the more profoundly, the more arbitrarily, as is always the case when truths of faith are concerned – I am profoundly convinced that the real and deep Europeanisation of Spain, that is to say, our digestion of that part of the European spirit which it is possible to convert into our spirit, will not begin until we strive to impose ourselves upon the European spiritual order, to make Europeans swallow our spirit, that which is genuinely our, in exchange for theirs, until we strive to Spaniardize Europe.
In later years, his courage in opposing what he saw as false, demonic versions of that Spanish spiritual complexion became legendary; first in his opposition to the dictatorship of Primo de Rivera, which resulted in his exile to Fuerteventura on 21 February 1924, and later, his resistance to the Falangist coup of 1936. In Salamanca, as the nationalists crowed in victory, Unamuno faced down the cries of General José Millán Astray, ‘death to intelligence! Long live death!’ Unamuno is reputed to have replied, ‘this is the temple of intelligence, and I am its high priest. You are profaning its sacred domain. You will win, but you will not convince (vencéreis, pero no convencéreis).’ Unamuno believed that the ability to convince required persuasion, lacking without reason and right. How odd to live through times in which persuasion (suggestion, manipulation, low calculation, brazen denial) has no need of these, and yet is unable to convince.
In the preface to J.E. Crawford Fitch’s translation of Unamuno’s Essays and Soliloquies (New York: Knopf, 1925), Unamuno writes, ‘I know that when I have read my writings translated into another language I have been aware of echoes and reverberations which lay sleeping in the depths of my spirit, I have glimpsed horizons which the firm and severe contours of my native tongue did not permit me to see.’ Among this glistering, vicious, canting language of the rejuvenated right – taking back control, Brexit means Brexit, fake news, post-truth, build the wall – the regressive nationalism, xenophobia, misogyny, unimaginable freedoms for the extremely wealthy and authoritarian restrictions on the rest, such echoes and reverberations haunt and sustain us.
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