Silent Letters of the Alphabet

Newcastle/Bloodaxe Poetry, March 2010

In this innovative series of public lectures at Newcastle University, leading contemporary poets speak about the craft and practice of poetry to audiences drawn from both the city and the university. The lectures are then published in book form by Bloodaxe, giving readers everywhere the opportunity to learn what the poets themselves think about their own subject.

Ruth Padel’s poetry lectures link metaphor to silence and white space on a page. Equating a poem’s music with its politics, she explores tone, register and harmony, suggesting that how poems hold our “attention” is through “tension”.

Finally, she investigates what it means for poems that they are “given to” other people. With her trademark blend of literary analysis, psychological and mythical learning, an intimate knowledge of Greek poetics plus a generous and joyful trust in the energy of today’s poetry, Ruth Padel plumbs unheard rhymes, Echo and Narcissus, the silent music of John Cage, and what happens when Paul Durcan plays Seamus Heaney at ping pong.

She wears her erudition lightly, paying playful attention to the resonances of many different poems – and to their smaller atoms, words and syllables. A fascinating and groundbreaking book, Silent Letters of the Alphabet is a gift for anyone writing, reading or teaching poetry today.

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