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Showing posts from January, 2014

Gazza Agonistes

The boy could not sit still, could not keep quiet. When told off, he would be contrite, but the itch was plain to see: none of this talk really mattered. And when he took to the field, he played not for the team-plan but for himself, or so it seemed. Sometimes, according to Sexton, he was like a 'chicken with no head', running in all directions, needlessly frantic and aggressive. He hogged the ball, held onto it too long and frequently lost possession in his own half of the field.

But then of course he would do something wonderful - like beat three men, curl a free kick around the wall, split the defence with an outrageously angled pass. At such moments he was indeed a little gem.
Sound familiar? Recent years have seen foreign players vilified for their apparent selfishness - Christiano Ronaldo and, most recently of course, Luis Su├írez. It's a legacy handed down from Alf Ramsey's World Cup success and a footballing culture that has always prized dependable work-rate far…

Review: David Herd's All Just

Despite the promise of political satire in its title, David Herd's first collection, Mandelson! Mandelson!: A Memoir (2005), wasn't about New Labour's infamous spin doctor. Nor was it much of a memoir. Instead, its concern was "the age of Mandelson": a world of hyperreality, sinister anonymity, confusion, mis- and disinformation overload, surface sheen and little substance. The book's brisk, tumbling, disorienting poems supplied a mimetic equivalent to our early twenty-first century, where politics, and indeed the language we use, have become increasingly divorced from any stable sense of reality. Herd's style was not a new one. The influence of John Ashbery and the New York School is apparent in any postmodern attempt to make poems a direct record of the muddled process that engenders them. Nevertheless, Herd's mixture of broad societal concerns with that particular kind of poetics produced a first book that was as provocative and freewh…

Louis MacNeice

‘World is crazier and more of it than we think, incorrigibly plural’. Even if you’re not that well-versed in modern British and Irish poetry, chances are you’ll still know ‘Snow’, or a line or two from the poem will seem naggingly familiar. While still in his twenties, Louis MacNeice wrote it in 1935, and since then, it’s been a favourite with readers, writers and editors, cropping up in every kind of poetry anthology.

Weird, then, that MacNeice’s work has often been seen as a footnote to that of his illustrious pal W.H. Auden, when he’s so clearly a hugely original poet in his own right. And when, among more recent generations, the likes of Seamus Heaney, Michael Longley, Derek Mahon, Don Paterson and Conor O’Callaghan have all cited him as a major influence in their own writing. It’s not like ‘Snow’ was a one hit wonder, either. Despite some of the less exciting – and often lengthy – stuff he wrote in the early 50s, MacNeice only got better, perfecting his moving, atmospheric and pow…