Hughes in 1986: Bate simply fails to make the case his book stands on – that the poet was a sadist

An unauthorised, and unconvincing, biography of Ted Hughes

Craig Raine says that Jonathan Bate’s unauthorised biography of Ted Hughes gets it wrong on every level

‘Capel-y-ffin’, 1926–7 (watercolour and gouache)

David Jones: painter, poet and mystic

David Jones (1895–1974) was a remarkable figure: artist and poet, he was a great original in both disciplines. His was…

‘Night in Marrakesh’, 1968, by Brion Gysin

Cut-ups, hallucinations and Hermann Goering: the extraordinary life of Brion Gysin

Among my more bohemian friends in 1980s London, Brion Gysin was a name spoken with a certain awe. He was…

Spectator letters: A Christian response to the Syrian refugee crisis

Biblical suggestions Sir: I wish to offer a couple of comments on Matthew Parris’s observation that although his ‘Christian atheism’…

Lauren Laverne (Photo: Getty)

Late Night Woman’s Hour assumes that all women think about is dating, desire and drinking

Late Night Woman’s Hour has created a Twitter storm with its twice-weekly (Thursdays and Fridays) doses of ‘mischievous and unbridled…

Author, critic and TV presenter Clive James (Photo: Getty)

‘Doorways to the unknown’: Clive James’s Latest Readings

In the preface to his great collection of essays The Dyer’s Hand, W.H. Auden claimed: ‘I prefer a critic’s notebooks…

Author Jonathan Galassi (Photo: Elena Seibert)

Jonathan Galassi’s fictional poet made me doubt my knowledge of American literature

Jonathan Galassi is an American publisher, poet and translator. In his debut novel Muse, his passion for the ‘good old…

‘Thetis giving Achilles his arms’ (fresco), Giulio Romano, 1492–1546

A new translation of the Iliad

‘Why do another translation of Homer?’ Richmond Lattimore asked in the foreword to his own great translation of the Iliad…


Helen Vendler is full of condescending waffle (and not just when she’s attacking me)

Is it possible to tell a good poem from a bad one? To put the question another way: are there…

Edward Thomas (Photo: Getty)

Edward Thomas: the prolific hack (who wrote a book review every three days for 14 years) turned to poetry just in time

Edward Thomas was gloomy as Eeyore. In 1906 he complained to a friend that his writing ‘was suffering more &…

Prince Alemayehu (Photo: Getty)

This radio programme almost made me like Piers Morgan

An extraordinary black-and-white photograph of a young black boy taken on the Isle of Wight by Julia Margaret Cameron in…

Poet John Clare spent much of his life destitute, and died in Northampton General Asylum. (Photo: Getty)

What’s On in South Devon gave me three choices: functioning psychotic preacher, bingo or a poetry evening

I’m such a constitutional lightweight lately that I’ve started looking on the website What’s On in South Devon for things…


There’s nothing wrong with getting into Thomas Tallis on the back of Fifty Shades of Grey

Great works of art may have a strange afterlife. Deracinated from the world that created them they are at the…

The Shading Out of Poetry by Deadline

Like old-time washerwomen floodwater is sousing trees and shrubs out on the drainage. Floating wrack dribbles seaward from their labour.…

TS Eliot

Tom Eliot — a very practical cat. Did T.S. Eliot simply recycle every personal experience into poetry?

T.S. Eliot may have put much of his early life into his poetry, says Daniel Swift, but The Waste Land remains a marvellous mystery that defies explanation

London Based Scots Celebrate Burns Night With Haggis And Whisky

The risks of being an Englishman on Burns Night

I’m rubbish at public speaking and detest it. Even the thought of reciting an English poem of my choice at…

Old mill boards and sea-green slates: Yeats’s tower

On the Yeats trail in Galway

The Go Galway bus from Dublin sounds an unlikely pleasure, but it is both comfortable and punctual. There is free…

Benjamin Robert Haydon’s portrait of William Wordsworth

Sunday roasts and beaded bubbles: dining with the poets

In December 1817 Benjamin Robert Haydon — vivid diarist and painter of huge but inferior canvases of historic events —…

"Gulf Stream" by Winslow Homer Photo: Getty

Why radio is a surprisingly good medium for talking about art

You might think it a fool’s errand to attempt programmes about art on the wireless. How can you talk about…

Poet Wendy Cope Photo: Getty

Wendy Cope on hating school, meeting Billy Graham and enduring Freudian analysis

A surprise! I took this book from its envelope expecting a fresh collection of Wendy Cope’s poems, and opened it…

Joss Stone visits 'Blood Swept Lands and Seas of Red' at the Tower of London  Photo: The Royal British Legion/Charlie Davies

We know that war is hell. But it doesn’t ever make us stop doing it

There’s a plausible theory — recently rehearsed in the BBC’s excellent two-part documentary The Lion’s Last Roar? — that our…

Ezra Pound in the early 1920s

Ezra Pound – the fascist years

‘There are the Alps. What is there to say about them?/ They don’t make sense. Fatal glaciers, crags cranks climb,…

Peter Levi Photo: Getty

Peter Levi – poet, priest and life-enhancer

Hilaire Belloc was once being discussed on some television programme. One of the panellists was Peter Levi. The other critics…


The biography that makes Philip Larkin human again

We needn’t apologise for Philip Larkin any longer, says Peter J. Conradi. His place is unmistakeably among the greats