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I think you better give credit to Sally. I'm pretty sure she originally introduced the topic.

That's a beautiful quote. Of course, it makes me want to read more than I have time to read.

I really need to write about Mary Karr, too.


I don't suppose you remember what post it was on, do you? Or roughly when? Presumably sometime not too long before June '09.

No, I can't even find anything on Sally's blog and I know she's written about her. Well, the name of her blog is from a Pitter poem.


That phrase happens to be in one of the 2 dozen or so poems I read. Right at the moment I can't recall the context (don't have the stuff with me).

I think I said I liked her a lot! I don't think I've ever written much about her, if anything, just thought about her. The credit really does go to Dale - I have this memory of chiming in with a "Me, too," when he mentioned her.

I am with you in liking "minor" poets, or at least modest and unsung ones. Mid/late-20th-century England seems to have been full of them. My favorite of the lot by far is Charles Causley, who died in 2003 or -04, I think -- not too long after we left, at any rate. He had a fairly distinguished reputation, actually, but lived a modest, quiet life as a schoolteacher in the Cornish town of his birth. While many of his poems are strikingly good, others are probably too "small" in their subjects or too interior to be really "great," I suppose, though I tend to like them anyway.

I don't recall having read Causley. But I used to have an anthology of British poetry since 1945 (or something like that), a little Penguin paperback which I bought in the '70s, so it only covered 25 years or so, and there were a number of poems in it that I really liked by people I'd never otherwise heard of. I wonder if he might have been in it...

One of these days I'm going to write about Phyllis McGinley, who has some really good stuff, usually fairly light but often enough revealing something unexpected.

Well, after searching through the archives I have come to the conclusion that we have never discussed Ruth Pitter, even though Maclin, Sally, presumably Dale, and I remember it. In fact, I'm about convinced that Ruth Pitter never existed.


Well, don't start singing "Strawberry Fields".

I know that you know that if you really didn't want me to sing it, you shouldn't have deposited it in my head.

Sally, I really love those Causley poems that I have read on your website. I didn't realize that he was a 20th C. poet.


I keep meaning to look Pitter up -- thanks for the reminder. I don't read as much poetry as I should and I've been trying to remedy that. About a year ago I decided to keep a paperback of Wordsworth in my glove compartment so that if I'm ever stuck somewhere with nothing to read it'll always be there.

Recently I've discovered John Clare via the English essayist Ronald Blythe, who writes wonderful journal-type pieces on English country parish life, and is the chairman or something of the John Clare Society. In one of his books Blythe uses excerpts from Clare's "Shepherd's Calendar" to head each section, and I liked them enough to buy a Clare 'selected poems' collection.

I've been meaning to go back to Masefield too, whom I liked a lot when I was younger but haven't read in a long time. And there are a couple contemporary poets I've wanted to sample, whose names escape me at the moment.

Pitter, Lewis, Owen Barfield and others were admirers of George Rostrevor Hamilton's small book The Tell-Tale Article.

GRH did a statistical study and found that modernist verse is characterized by exceptionally frequent use of the word "the." The effect is often to convey a drab sense of the familiarity and even banality of something, a sense supposedly, yet not really, shared by poet and reader. Since I generally don't read these poets, I will concoct an example of the sort of thing:

the grey dampness of the puddled afternoon

an echo like the memory of the evening's final cigarette

Pitter doesn't write like that.

Those are pretty good lines, Dale. :-)

I remember now you mentioned this before and I thought it was a striking insight. It will certainly make me self-conscious about doing that in my poetry.

Rob, I decided a few years ago I was going to read The Prelude and--maybe it was just my general level of distraction and inability to concentrate--but I found myself getting lost. I looked for an annotated edition but couldn't find one.

Mac, I've been trying to read 'The Prelude' for 20 years. Seriously. I've started it at least four times but got bogged down each time and never finished it. Someday.

I do read through WW's selected poems every couple years (I have a 19th century selection edited by a certain Henry Reed -- it's inscribed "Dec. 8, 1868. To my wife with birthday congratulations. G.W. Mackey" It's probably the oldest book I own) and I often dip in here and there -- I dearly love 'Tintern Abbey', 'Intimations of Immortality', 'Michael', the "Lucy" poems, etc.

Well, I admit, Wordsworth was never a big favorite of mine in the days when I was studying literature, so I haven't put a lot of effort into him. It's nice to know someone else has the same problem with The Prelude, though.

I had to read the Two-Part Prelude for A-level Eng. Lit. Rather put me off Wordsworth.

And I guess nobody even attempts The Excursion?

I certainly never have.

I've loved Wordsworth since high school -- I think it's due to both an ingrained vaguely pantheistic streak and a melancholy temperament. My favorite thing about Spring is that it means we're halfway to Autumn. :-)

This is the first time that I think I've seen Rob G and Robert Gotcher one right after the other in the comments queue. That could be downright confusing to someone who didn't know they were two different people.


thanks for sharing the preface and your ideas here. it seems Ruth Pitter really did live the life of a poet/artist. the biography by King is really great. ...but then you probably don't need someone to interpret her poetry for you.

(i just posted about Pitter, myself---but I am no writer.)

i guess it wasn't fair to say "i am no writer." i meant i am not formally educated---i have lots of heart and little head knowledge. just know that if/when you see what i wrote about Pitter.

That's a great passage you quote from her on your blog. And a very interesting blog. Thank you.

Interesting and beautiful, I should say.

Goodness me, for a group of literate types I'm rather shocked by your attitude to Wordsworth. I mean he is, inescapably, number 4 in the table behind only Shakespeare, Milton and Chaucer. Every time you are moved by the natural world you are under his influence: he more or less invented the way we look at it. And if you don't want to there is no need at all to read The Prelude from start to end (after all, he never really finished it to his own satisfaction). Pick it up, flick through, and see what you alight upon. I personally always preferred Coleridge, but it was WW who helped make our world, and all poets worth their salt really need to read him. The Prelude is important because it tells us how he came to think as he did, and by extension how we come to think as we do...

Broadly, I would agree with you about his importance, although I'm not so sure about that ranking. I don't know that there is a number 4. Wordsworth doesn't seem to me to belong in the class with them. Though if you're talking mainly of influence it's a fair point. But that's a different question from whether one actually wants to sit and read the poetry. Just as a matter of taste, the Romantics in general were never my favorites--in the 19th c, I prefer the Victorians. Wandering around in The Prelude is probably a good idea. Or maybe a Best Of.

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