The Music of Time
A Financial Times Book of the Year
Though we might not realise it, our collective memory of the twentieth century was defined by the poets who lived and wrote in it. At every significant turning point we find them, pen in hand, fingers poised at the typewriter, ready to distil the essence of the moment, from the muddy wastes of the Western front to the vast reckoning that came with the end of empire.
This is the first and only history of twentieth century poetry, by the acclaimed poet, author and academic John Burnside. Bringing together poets from times and places as diverse as Tsarist Russia, 1960’s America and Ireland at the height of the Troubles, The Music of Time reveals how poets engaged with and shaped the most important issues of their times – and were in their turn affected by their context and dialogue with each other. This is a major work of scholarship, that on every page bears witness to the transformative beauty and power of poetry.
The joy of Burnside's poems - and part of what makes them moving - is that he does know and never stops registering the ways in which beauty makes life worth living. * Observer * Burnside can describe the material world with astonishing deftness... He is the poet who more than any other writing today sees the material world and the world of thought and ideas as two sides of the most fragile of membranes. -- Fiona Sampson Burnside, who is also an accomplished poet, writes lyrical prose with virtuoso ease * Guardian * Burnside has a lovely garrulousness that is distinctively his own -- Tessa Hadley Burnside has written a generous, combative, honest book, which will compel re-reading and deserves to survive, as poetry itself survives, alongside the laziness and imaginative carnage of public speech in the 21st century. -- Rowan Williams * The New Statesman * A highly personal work by the Scottish poet John Burnside, The Music of Time is above all an urgent defence of the power of poetry. Burnside shows us how words on the page can bring us an understanding beyond words - and beyond science - whether we are in mourning, in love (or out of it but still married to the once beloved), at war, in exile, in despair or - as now - in crisis. Enriched by Burnside's clear, luminous prose, it tackles overlooked - in this country at least - issues of translation and challenges the reader to think more deeply. About death. About life. About everything. -- Fiona Rintoul * The Herald * A rich, generous and often surprising book * The Scotsman * A rare blend, mixing equal parts intellectual rigour and engaging conversation. -- Maria Crawford * Financial Times * A good book, combining personal reminiscence and intensive reflection on works by [various] poets ... Burnside argues that 20th-century poetry matters because it continually interacts with contemporary social conditions and political crises, with what he calls - borrowing the phrase from Osip Mandelstam - 'the noise of time.' -- Michael Dirda * Washington Post *
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