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Look with the Ears

Charles Tomlinson’s Poetry of Sound

Richard Swigg

This volume traces the way in which the poetry of Charles Tomlinson evolved from the 1940s to the 1990s as an acoustic means of «seeing» and voicing the physical world. Jointly discussing for the first time the auditory effects of the verse and its many textual forms, the book also draws upon the newly available collection of Tomlinson’s poetry manuscripts at the University of Texas and his many recorded readings. The vocal influence of American poetry – notably that of Walt Whitman, Wallace Stevens, Marianne Moore and William Carlos Williams – is assessed, together with Tomlinson’s English literary inheritance and the impact of his own translations of Fyodor Tyutchev and Antonio Machado. The importance of his dialogues with Octavio Paz is given special attention, and the relation between Tomlinson’s surrealist paintings and his auditory verse receives its first critical discussion. Throughout the book, the unfolding sequence of Tomlinson’s poetic development is supported by a chronology of composition. Bringing together sound and sight as its major theme, this book is also arguing for the central importance of Tomlinson as an international poet.
Contents: Tomlinson’s early poetry and Stevens, Moore, Mallarmé – Seeing is Believing and Wordsworth, Ruskin, Cézanne, Tyutchev – Transforming Williams’s forms, translating Machado – Dialogues with Paz and surrealist graphics – Poems of history, revolution, religion – Poems’ dates: 1948-1991.