Tuesday, 3 September 2013

Ridiculously Articulate

David Orr lauds Louis MacNeice's poetry:
He is one of the 20th century’s great poets of loneliness. And yet this aspect of MacNeice can be easy to overlook, in part because he seems (as is frequently said of Auden) entirely comfortable with the rhythms and clutter of the modern world: “Cubical scent-bottles artificial legs arctic foxes and electric mops.” We think of solitary poets as writing about ragged claws scuttling across the floors of silent seas; we don’t usually think of them as being interested in “electric mops.”

Nor do we think of them as being fluent. Yet MacNeice is effortlessly, almost ridiculously articulate—he seems capable (again like Auden) of writing about nearly anything, and in nearly any form. The 800 or so pages here include tiny poems (the nine-line “Upon This Beach”); book-length poems (“Autumn Journal,” which helped make his reputation); book-length poems in terza rima (“Autumn Sequel,” which nearly undid it); virtuoso deployment of nearly all forms of rhyme (“London Rain” rhymes a word with itself in every stanza); and a vocabulary that suavely extends from “Tom or Dick or Harry” and “trams” to “ochred” and ­“archaize.” Surely a poet of loneliness should do a little more stammering.

1 comment:

Brian Palmu said...

I'm excited to get my hands on the Collected, and to find the remarkable poem of his, which I once read and then lost track of, set as anecdotal boyhood loneliness, a better comparable entry than his much more famous "Autobiography".