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thirty-five: Sean O’Brien, The Drowned Book

fifty-two poets

I have to confess I hadn’t heard of Sean O’Brien until recently, when I found out he’d won last year’s Forward prize for poetry. So it seemed appropriate to start with his prize-winning collection, The Drowned Book.

The blurb says that much of this collection ‘takes [its] emotional tenor and imaginative cue from [Sean O’Brien’s] acclaimed translation of Dante’s Inferno‘. Unfortunately I haven’t actually read the Inferno, so I felt like I was on a bit of a back foot from the start. That said, the opening poems – all about water, rivers, the sea – are undeniably compelling, drawing you into their dark, subterranean world. Water seems to be a place of memory, haunted by the dead – perhaps the borderlands between this world and another… I loved the dark, knowing, and, in places, comic tone of these poems.

There’s satire, too, on Britain’s current…

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By penwithlit

Freelance writer and radio presenter

2 replies on “thirty-five: Sean O’Brien, <i>The Drowned Book</i>”

Thanks, Penwithlit, for letting me discover Sean O’Brien (had never heard of him). Love the line in Water Gardens:
“English poets, all gone damp
With good intentions, never read.”
Aso Jeamme Mammen (in your next post), someone else to find out more about.

I came across Sean O’Brien in that wonderful collection of Ruth Padel -“52 Ways Of Looking At A Poem: or How Reading Modern Poetry Can Change Your Life: A Poem for Every Week of the Year”
Mammen is fascinating too and her friendship with Apollinaire and that circle which I was reading about just this week which included the wonderful Sonia Delauney and her husband,

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