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The Unthronged Oracle


The Unthronged Oracle

Mereo Books (9 Nov. 2016)
Paperback ‏ : ‎ 316 pages, £9.99. Kindle: £2.30
ISBN-10 ‏ : ‎ 1861516762
ISBN-13 ‏ : ‎ 978-1861516763

Jack Blackmore's book is the most significant to appear so far on Laura Riding's poetry. It avoids critical jargon, setting out, in straightforward prose, clues to the meaning of fifteen selected poems which exemplify the genius of Laura Riding's poetic discovery. Blackmore treats a range of poems, from the deceptively simple 'The Signature' to the highly complex 'The Tiger' and 'Poet: A Lying Word', to demonstrate both their richness and that they make perfect sense, something which has eluded most previous critics. He does not suggest she is simple or easy but he does reveal her quite extraordinary knowledge of literature, including biblical literature, which lies behind all her poems. He also demonstrates that her Collected Poems of 1938 is no loose assembly of poems, as the case is with most collections, but a careful gathering in of her work to make one continuous epic poem. The following quotation is from the book's back cover:

Laura Riding was a major poet, but her poems, though widely admired and influential, have been little understood. Throughout the 1920s and 1930s she had been ‘a devout advocate of poetry’ believing that ‘to go to poetry is the most ambitious act of the mind.’ Her renunciation of poetry in the 1940s gave rise to bemusement, not helped by the fact that not until 1970 did she gave a substantial explanation.

Jack Blackmore tackles the causes of the neglect of Riding’s poetry and finds in her own critical work the basis for new and productive approaches to her poems. He gives a close reading of fifteen poems chosen to represent both the progress of Collected Poems and the remarkable range and scope of her poetry. By the end the reader will have come to appreciate both the strength and unity of the poems and the continuity between them and her ‘post-poetic’ work, in particular The Telling, her spiritual testament published in 1972.

Complementing the work on the poems is Mark Jacobs’s vivid memoir of a visit to the author in later life at her home in Florida.

'These essays are interesting and you have done well - you seem to me fair and just in what you say about her work' - Robert Nye

'This is ambitious work, full of insights' - Professor Michael Schmidt

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