Tom Paulin

Tom Paulin is a poet and critic.

Poem: ‘The Revenant’

Tom Paulin, 3 January 2019

after Baudelaire

Like those angels with rough – rough or roughened eyes I’ll come back to the little alcove where you try to fall asleep.

I’ll slip in between the sheets without a sound from the dark, no the darksome night, and I’ll give you, burnt woman the coldest of kisses and the hugs of a snake in a smelly grave.

When the dawn comes without a sound...

Better than Ganymede: Larkin

Tom Paulin, 21 October 2010

Philip Larkin met Monica Jones in 1946 at Leicester University College. She was an assistant lecturer there, and Larkin was an assistant librarian. Both had firsts in English from Oxford. Monica Jones was an able lecturer, but she never published anything and so was never promoted, although she stayed at Leicester until she retired in 1981. They soon took up together, although Larkin had, and...

The Chorus draws nearer to Oedipus.

CHORUS Those evil men that have slept since long ago. It is not proper to awaken them. But yet I must be told –

OEDIPUS Told what?

CHORUS Told of that great heartbreak for which there was no help. I mean the pain that you have had to suffer.

OEDIPUS I ask that you be kind. I ask you not to open my ancient wound and all my shame too.

CHORUS Everywhere...

Between leaving school and going to Cambridge, Ted Hughes did his National Service in the RAF. Writing from RAF West Kirby, in the Wirral, to a friend, Edna Wholey, in 1949 – characteristically there is no date on the letter – he exults in the wild weather:

Edna, I’ve seen rain and I tell you this isn’t rain, – a steady river, well laced with ice, tempest and thunder, covers all this land, and what isn’t concrete has reverted to original chaos of mud water fire and air. Morning and evening its one soak and the sun’s more or less a sponge, and lately comes up frozen quite stiff.

This love of chaos, motion, process, which is the energy of his best poems, and often makes them resemble action paintings, is brought to a halt by the strong stresses on the last three words so that the stretched perception is completed.

Four Poems

Walid Khazendar, translated by Tom Paulin, 25 May 2006

The Sail, Again

Only to sleep for a bit and then to wake up – this’d force the pack from off my shoulders draw the pushiness from out my chest and burst the buttons – the too-tight buttons – tin wafers – that’re stuck there

was it all for nothing then the thing we launched? that fell down hard on us? – it’s time we drew a line I mean time we...

This book is a sequence or collection of poems and other things concerning events in Europe in the period between the Treaty of Versailles and, broadly speaking, the Battle of Britain. Some of...

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Shoe-Contemplative: Hazlitt

David Bromwich, 18 June 1998

How they keep trying to bury Hazlitt, and how he keeps coming back. T.S. Eliot said he was guilty of ‘crimes against taste’. David Lodge made him a twee subject of nostalgic research...

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Michael Hofmann, 22 September 1994

Everybody knows – Paul Muldoon said it on the radio recently – that writing poetry can only get harder the more you keep at it. Against that is the belief, or perhaps the...

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Paulin’s People

Edward Said, 9 April 1992

It is not very often that professional students of literature experience an invigorating shock of pleasure, surprise, illumination upon reading a work of criticism – perhaps because, like...

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Christopher Ricks, 22 November 1990

Adrian Room has garnered umpteen dedications, and some of them are of interest, but what is the point of unrolling them alphabetically as something purporting to be a dictionary? Abbott opens,...

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Public Works

David Norbrook, 5 June 1986

‘Arnold and Eliot ensured that the magic of monarchy and superstition permeated English literary criticism and education like a syrupy drug ... ’ Yes, this is Tom Paulin speaking....

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Local Heroes

John Horgan, 7 February 1985

In the 1840s, according to Theodore Hoppen’s densely-packed and illuminating study of Irish political realities, ‘bored’ British ministers ‘grappled with the tedious but...

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Making sense

Denis Donoghue, 4 October 1984

In ‘A Wave’, the title-poem of his new collection, John Ashbery says, among many other things: One idea is enough to organise a life and project it Into unusual but viable forms, but...

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Derek Mahon, 5 June 1980

It would be disingenuous of me to pretend that I have taken the full measure, or anything like it, of Middleton’s Carminalenia, an intensely difficult collection about as far removed from...

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