Ruins: Poetry of Place


Ruins: Poetry of Place


The broken gate of a rocky citadel, the ivy-clad ruins of a Gothick tower – these are the physical icons of a romantic engagment with the past. They have always fuelled our passion for travel.And they have always provoked the poets. This vein of English verse is celebrated here in a brilliant collection. 

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Edited by: Anthony Thwaite
ISBN: 978-0907871-98-9
Format: 80/100x150mm pb
Price: £6.99
Place: England

Preface by Anthony Thwaite

An archaeological dig and writing a poem have a lot in common. Both are searches for meaning, sifting through material that isn’t always certain and stable, apt to disintegrate. ‘Archaeology – a career in ruins’: I first saw this jest on a poster in the office of an archaeological unit. But there is a more romantic view of the minutiae of the past, of the indestructible fragments. As Proust wrote in the early twentieth century:

Archaeologists and archivists are now showing us . . . that nothing is ever forgotten or destroyed, that the meanest circumstances of our lives, the details most remote from us, have carved themselves into the huge catacombs of the past where humankind records its life-story, hour by hour . . . Whether near or far, in our recent past or back in prehistory, there is not a single detail, not a single circumstance, however futile or fragile it may appear, that has perished.

This anthology is an attempt to bring together a range of responses to the past in verse, from the solemn and sententious sense of fallen glories evoked by Edmund Spenser in the sixteenth century to the more cynical judgement of Fleur Adcock in the present day. ‘Sermons in stones’ alternate with evocations of particular places, objects, remains. The distant past is brought to life in the brilliant mimicry of Kipling or Auden, or brooded on elegiacally by Housman or Larkin. These poems are full of secrets, lessons, warnings. Egypt, Greece, Rome, from prehistor y to the medieval – all are here, commemorated in words that are meant to last.