This critical study looks at the first four decades of Charles Tomlinson’s poetic career, and is the only published full-scale, exclusive treatment of his poetry. Tomlinson is a major British poet whose work has received more recognition in North America and continental Europe than it has in his own country, where still, in some quarters, its character is misunderstood and therefore misjudged. The purpose of Kirkham’s study is to increase understanding and appreciation of the exceptional achievement of Tomlinson’s poetry, emphasising both the startling originality of his vision – a unified vision of a natural-human world – and the subtlety of his poetic art. The study is a reading of the poems which aims to show what they yield to close scrutiny and to remove misconceptions. Known for its analytical rendering of sense-impressions and its avoidance of the personal pronoun, the objectivism of Tomlinson’s poetry is not an exercise in asceticism, but a means of enlarging the circumference of the perceiving self, an expansion of self which is not at the same time an inflation of the self-regarding ego. Its theme is not objects as such but relations, the relation of the perceiving self to the other, of the human to the non-human world. Its reputation for cool detachment is based on a misreading: it is a poetry of energy and excitement, which combines self-restraint with passionate conviction.
April 1, 1999
Liverpool English Texts and Studies 31