Silent Letters of the Alphabet


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A fascinating and ground-breaking book, Silent Letters of the Alphabet is a gift for anyone writing, reading or teaching poetry today.

The book consists of three Bloodaxe Lectures which Ruth gave at Newcastle University in 2008: a series in which leading contemporary poets talk about the craft and practice of poetry, to audiences drawn from both the city and the university. Published by Bloodaxe, the books of the lectures give readers everywhere the opportunity to learn what poets think about their own subject.

Ruth explores metaphor, silence and white space on the page. She links a poem’s music with its politics, exploring the concepts of tone, register and harmony, and suggests that poems hold our attention 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 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 smallest atoms, words and syllables.