Poetry and Displacement by Stan Smith

By Stan Smith

The final hundred years were an period of exceptional displacements: the speeded up flow of rural populations to the city, the unfold of those towns into successive empires, and the ensuing diasporas that experience cast the fashionable usa and any variety of smaller international locations. those techniques have fostered a poetry of exile and expatriation in detail certain up with the adventure and tradition of modernity. Poetry and Displacement is a thought-provoking and hard exam of globalized displacement within the paintings of a few of our such a lot critically-acclaimed poets, together with Christopher Middleton, Philip Larkin, and Derek Walcott.

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198); together with the speculation in ‘The Old Fools’ (1973) that ‘Perhaps being old is having lighted rooms / ­inside your head’ (p. 196). And then there is ‘being dead’, in ‘Aubade’ (1977) (p. 208), which recalls a 1949 poem of his, ‘On Being Twenty-six’, where ‘being dead’ leads on to a conclusion which speaks of ‘devaluing dichotomies: / Nothing, and paradise’ (p. 24). Or again, ‘At thirty-one’ (1953), with its admission that ‘I, being neither [rich nor dead], have a job instead’, a poem which confesses to writing letters to women ‘instead of planning how / I best can thrive’, letters which ‘owe / Too much elsewhere’ to be love letters (pp.

A decade later, it might well have seemed proleptic of his current situation. Its Audenesque vision of failure at the heart of ostensible success, its self-questioning and self-contempt, recall the rhetorical questions and reversals, often in a second, internally distantiated voice within the poem’s main discourse, with which Auden concluded many early poems. Even the exclamatory ‘O’ with which the direct reported speech breaks into the narrative in the poem’s sestet is classic early Auden. Twelve poems in The English Auden actually begin with ‘O’, in four of which it issues directly in semi-rhetorical questions, and there are many more such overheated or merely posturing vocatives scattered throughout the body of his early poetry.

The same infolding affects ‘wish’ and ‘desire’, and leads from ‘alone’ to ‘oblivion’. indb 37 18/09/2007 14:39:17 On the Edge of Things: Philip Larkin ‘The wish to be alone’. ‘Being’ in Larkin’s poetry is rarely just untrammelled existence, the ontological present tense. It is usually a matter of being something else and, in the process, adulterated. There is, early, ‘The instantaneous grief of being alone’ (in ‘Kick up the fire’, Collected Poems, p. 285); or, later, ‘happy at being on my own’ (in ‘To the Sea’, p.

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