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This review is taken from PN Review 202, Volume 38 Number 2, November - December 2011.

Making New the Word-Hoard The Word Exchange: Anglo-Saxon Poems in Translation, edited by Greg Delanty and Michael Matto (Norton) £25

This book is one of those projects that work so well you wonder why it has not been done before. The editors have selected a large body of the shorter poems in Old English and printed their texts faced by new translations by what Michael Matto calls 'a panoply of voices', drawing on a considerable number of the leading current poets in English from both sides of the Atlantic. That is an achievement in itself: it is unusual to have transatlantic poets appearing in the same context at all; indeed they often hardly know of each other's existence. But the primary achievement of this superb book is to provide an anthology of these great poems together, alongside distinguished modern versions in verse. Every poetry enthusiast is aware of notable translations of the Anglo-Saxon poems - by Longfellow, Pound, Auden, Heaney, Edwin Morgan; but there has never been a major attempt to represent something approaching the whole corpus in verse translations. From the 30,000-odd surviving lines of Anglo-Saxon verse, space is made for the range of The Word Exchange by leaving out Beowulf (Heaney's will do, under separate cover). The major Biblical poems of the Junius manuscript are largely absent, as are some heroic poems, such as the two 'Guthlac's'. But what survives gives a remarkably good sense of the tone and concerns of this major poetic corpus.

After an elegant brief 'Foreword' by Seamus Heaney, celebrating 'the ongoing vitality of Anglo-Saxon poetry a millennium after its demise ...


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