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Building with Wood

Gilberto Perez: Time and Tarkovsky, 26 February 2009

by Nathan Dunne.
Black Dog, 464 pp., £29.95, February 2008, 978 1 906155 04 9
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Andrei Tarkovsky: Elements of Cinema 
by Robert Bird.
Reaktion, 255 pp., £15.95, April 2008, 978 1 86189 342 0
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... in, and she enters the crypt alone. ‘Three kinds of space dominate all Tarkovsky’s films,’ Robert Bird writes: ‘nature, the home, and the shrine or cathedral.’ The ‘cathedral space is demonstrated most fully at the beginning of Nostalghia . . . in the rigorously geometrical yet disconcertingly elusive space of a columned crypt’. One ...

Exotic Bird from Ilford

Robert Baird: Denise Levertov, 25 September 2014

Denise Levertov: A Poet’s Life 
by Dana Greene.
Illinois, 328 pp., £22.99, October 2012, 978 0 252 03710 8
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A Poet’s Revolution: The Life of Denise Levertov 
by Donna Krolik Hollenberg.
California, 515 pp., £30.95, April 2013, 978 0 520 27246 0
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Collected Poems 
by Denise Levertov.
New Directions, 1063 pp., £32.99, December 2013, 978 0 8112 2173 3
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... a characteristic space between her front teeth … Everyone in Paris liked her. She was pure as a bird, delicate yet firm in conscience.’ Levertov thought Mailer, who had just published The Naked and the Dead, ‘a nice Jewish boy’ and a ‘friendly, modest, humorous person’. His ‘overnight success’, she told her parents, ‘doesn’t seem to have ...

A Palm Tree, a Colour and a Mythical Bird

Robert Cioffi: Ideas of Phoenicia, 3 January 2019

In Search of the Phoenicians 
by Josephine Quinn.
Princeton, 360 pp., £27, December 2017, 978 0 691 17527 0
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... a person from Phoenicia, it can refer to a palm tree, a deep red-purple colour and the mythical bird. There are only five Greek-language inscriptions in which people identify themselves as Phoenician, and just one of them – a bilingual funerary marker erected in Athens for a certain Antipatros of Ashkelon in the third century BC – seems definitively to ...

Like the Feeling of Butcher’s Paper

Robert VanderMolen, 13 May 2010

... by the age of 50. Not so repentant as startled, As in a movie where the dying man Gazes at some bird or cloud But still wouldn’t go to church Even if he could be carried. Among those middens of doubt Escaping seemed like a robust plan. But he didn’t know precisely What she was talking about. Her white dog was leaping straight up For no reason, a dog ...

In Defence of Allusion

Robert Pinsky, 22 May 2003

... in America are descended From ones imported because a certain man Wanted a park with every bird mentioned by Shakespeare. The birds are a pest, they drive out native species In the world’s rivalrous web of exterminations And propagating shadows, the net of ...

Three Poems

Robert Crawford, 4 November 2004

... I, sidewinder. I, archaeopteryx. I, hoatzin. I, heron. I, king penguin. I, saddle-billed stork. I, bird of paradise. I, cormorant. I, bower bird. I, macaque. I, cassowary. I, darter. I, armadillo. I, marmoset. I, bluebell. I, humpbacked whale. I, possum. I, spruce. I, sequoia. I, gibbon. I, zebra. I, wild ...

Four Poems

Robert Crawford, 4 August 1994

... rarely, always at the sales. Upstairs in one of two mahogany wardrobes He hangs it like a shot bird to be cured, New for a decade, it takes on the smell Of jackets round it, his scent, the reek of mothballs. On coathangers, suspended in the dark, Herringbone accepts the gift of waiting. Unseasoned pockets sense how ripened pockets Enfold receipts and ...


Robert Irwin, 3 July 1997

by Jim Crace.
Viking, 243 pp., £16.99, June 1997, 0 670 85697 5
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... badu hunting techniques is also instructive. These are wonderfully elaborate. In order to catch a bird in the desert, you must first find a tethered goat and then rub salt in its ear in order to extract a blood-filled tick and then tie a thread round the tick’s abdomen. Leave the tick with its thread weighted down on an exposed rock and wait for a ...

Old World

Robert Crawford, 4 February 2021

... Who can see the green earth any moreAs she was by the sources of Time?Who imagines her fields as they layIn the sunshine, unworn by the plough?Matthew Arnold, ‘The Future’Barley field, cut, dried,Brewed, poured, you’re so garrulousLong after you’ve gone.Old English riddle from the Exeter Book                    I                        1What rutting beast snorts‘Let me give you some pointers’Then trots through the mist?                        2In the beginningWas the Word, and the Word wasParsed into creatures ...

Seven Miles per Hour

Robert Macfarlane: The men who invented flight, 5 February 2004

First to Fly: The Unlikely Triumph of Wilbur and Orville Wright 
by James Tobin.
Murray, 431 pp., £9.99, November 2003, 0 7195 5738 0
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The Wright Brothers: The Aviation Pioneers who Changed the World 
by Ian Mackersey.
Little, Brown, 554 pp., £20, October 2003, 0 316 86144 8
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Wings of Madness: Alberto Santos-Dumont and the Invention of Flight 
by Paul Hoffman.
Fourth Estate, 369 pp., £18.99, June 2003, 1 84115 368 0
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Taking Flight: Inventing the Aerial Age from Antiquity to the First World War 
by Richard Hallion.
Oxford, 531 pp., £20, September 2003, 0 19 516035 5
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... was 5'4" and weighed 100 lbs: vital statistics for a man who had always wanted to be a bird. Growing up on his father’s coffee plantation in Brazil, he had watched eagles ‘flying so high and soaring on their great outstretched wings’, and had fallen in love with the ideals of ‘space and freedom’. In 1891, the family moved to Paris. When ...

Leo’s Silences

Robert Irwin: The travels of Leo Africanus, 8 February 2007

Trickster Travels: A 16th-Century Muslim between Worlds 
by Natalie Zemon Davis.
Faber, 448 pp., £20, January 2007, 978 0 571 20256 0
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... friend: he beats his friend as hard as he can, for that is his duty. Leo then tells the story of a bird that could live either on land or under the water. When the king of the birds demands taxes from him, the bird professes himself to be a creature of the water and retreats there. But when the king of the fishes, in ...

Elizabeth Bishop’s Aviary

Mark Ford: Elizabeth Bishop’s Aviary, 29 November 2007

... course, can’t fly, and there is a characteristic irony in Bishop’s identifying herself with a bird that can gain access to the skies only by gazing at her blue balloon. Bishop often likened poetic composition to an attempt to get airborne. ‘It is hard,’ she wrote in her notebook around 1937, ‘to get heavy objects up into the air; a strong desire to ...

Hatters’ Castle

Robert Morley, 4 August 1983

A Yorkshire Boyhood 
by Roy Hattersley.
Chatto, 215 pp., £8.95, June 1983, 0 7011 2613 2
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Letters to a Grandson 
by Lord Home.
Collins, 151 pp., £6.95, July 1983, 0 00 217061 2
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... 18 inches into the air. But until the end of her life she believed that one day she would catch a bird in mid-flight just below the clouds. On the back cover of Letters to a Grandson, Lord Home is pictured at Eton standing beside Matthew, the recipient of the correspondence. The fly-leaf expresses the hope that Matthew won’t object to publication. Lord ...


Michael Hofmann: Eley Williams, 7 September 2017

Attrib. and Other Stories 
by Eley Williams.
Influx, 169 pp., £9.99, March 2017, 978 1 910312 16 2
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by Eley Williams.
Sad, 35 pp., £6, April 2017
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... stories, with only one or two exceptions, come in the wake of break-ups. The lover – the bird or bard – has flown. The reader may very well think this is no bad thing. Williams’s leavers are all-rounders, shining, uncomplicated, confident, bossy creatures, ‘free to play or free to slack’, as Robert Lowell ...

Hatching, Splitting, Doubling

James Lasdun: Smooching the Swan, 21 August 2003

Fantastic Metamorphoses, Other Worlds: Ways of Telling the Self 
by Marina Warner.
Oxford, 264 pp., £19.99, October 2002, 0 19 818726 2
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... A memorable image in Robert Musil’s Man without Qualities likens the impact of a certain character to that of a powdery avalanche. The effect of reading Marina Warner’s magisterial works of cultural history is somewhat similar: the cool temperature, the graceful touch, the sensation of resistance being gently annihilated under an accumulation of brilliant particularity ...

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