From Dylan Thomas’s eighteen straight whiskies to Sylvia Plath’s desperate suicide in the gas oven of her Primrose Hill kitchen; from Chatterton’s Pre-Raphaelite demise to Keats’ death warrant in a smudge of arterial blood, the deaths of poets have often cast a backward shadow on their work.
The post-Romantic lore of the dissolute drunken poet has fatally skewed the image of poets in our culture. Novelists can be stable, savvy, politically adept and in control, but poets should be melancholic, doomed and self-destructive. Is this just an illusion , or is there some essential truth behind it? What is the price of poetry?
In this book, two contemporary poets embark on a series of journeys to the death places of poets of the past, in part as pilgrims, but also as investigators, interrogating the myth.
A rollicking mixture of literary biography, commentary, travelogue and anecdotage, much of it deeply amusing.
So much material of such innate interest is presented with just the right balance of panache, wit, insight and elegy… A good, clever, kindly and enjoyable book it is, like eavesdropping on two smarter friends when they are sparking off each other… Farley and Roberts are always entertaining and illuminating, gentle guides and quixotic questers.
Deaths of the Poets is packed with anecdotes and macabre frisons; its forays through some of poetry’s more sensational edge-lands make for a compelling read.
A terrifically entertaining book: thoughtful, funny, informative, with an eye for good quotes and anecdotes, and wide-ranging in both the distance it travels and the material on which it draws.
Deaths of the Poets is a gripping, witty read, but also asks serious questions about the way the post-Romantic myth of the doomed poet skews the way we interpret their work.