PN Review Print and Online Poetry Magazine
Most Read... Rebecca WattsThe Cult of the Noble Amateur
(PN Review 239)
Mark FordLetters And So It Goes
Letters from Young Mr Grace
(aka John Ashbery)

(PN Review 239)
Kei Millerthe Fat Black Woman
In Praise of the Fat Black Woman & Volume

(PN Review 241)
Henry Kingon Toby Martinez de las Rivas
(PN Review 244)
Eavan BolandA Lyric Voice at Bay
(PN Review 121)
Vahni CapildeoOn Judging Prizes, & Reading More than Six Really Good Books
(PN Review 237)
Next Issue Sasha Dugdale, Intimacy and other poems Eugene Ostashevsky, The Feeling Sonnets Nyla Matuk, The Resistance Alex Wylie, Democratic Rags Brigit Pegeen Kelly, Two poems from the archive
Poems Articles Interviews Reports Reviews Contributors
PNR 250 Poetry Archive Banner
Monthly Carcanet Books
PN Review Blog

This article is taken from PN Review 16, Volume 7 Number 2, November - December 1980.

Catherine Chorley
I. A. Richards was sixty-five when he published his first volume of poems and for the next twenty years he became deeply and increasingly committed to writing poetry. His poems therefore reflect a lifetime of experience. If one asks what they are about a quick answer might be that they are frequently sparked off by some exterior happening or observation which he then relates to his inner life of reflection. But this does not tell much about him as a poet. I believe that the fascination and drive of his poetry lie in his conception of a poem as an entity in its own right. I offer two suggestions in support of this belief.

A cherished ideal of his was that of good craftsmanship. He was a distinguished Alpine mountaineer and much of his joy in climbing came from exercising the many skills needed to organise and carry through a great climb. So, too, as a poet he liked exercising the skills which go to make a good poem.

My second suggestion concerns his curiosity and interest in scientific theories, urging him to cross-fertilise scientific with literary and philosophic culture. Many of the ideas used in his poems look like the progeny of this cross-fertilisation. But as a poem takes shape, meaning and form become functions one of another, inseparable though controlled by the craftsman's skills. I suggest that for Richards words are no longer rough pointers towards meaning but that syntax, ellipsis, balance and opposition of ...


Searching, please wait... animated waiting image