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JOHN CLARE (1793-1864)
Class Handout

"Humans can do everything except build a bird's nest." French proverb

"When we examine a nest, we place ourselves at the origin of confidence in the world." Gaston Bachelard

"Clare's poems are round." Jonathan Bate

"Clare's poetry is the record of his search for a home in the world." Jonathan Bate

"Clare progged/proged the ball of grass. With equal metrical ease, he could have poked it, or with some slight readjustment of the pentameter, he could have prodded it. But had he done either of these things, both he and his readers would have been distanced from the here-and-nowness, or there-and-thenness, of what happened. 'This,' said an Irish diplomat once about the wording of a document, 'is a minor point of major importance.'"
Seamus Heaney

"Clare's poetry stands at the frontier of writing, in a gap between the palpable world he inhabits and another world, available only to awakened language." Seamus Heaney

"Keats's Odes and Bewick's Birds compose two axes of Clare's poem. It continually tests itself against both poetry and natural history." Hugh Haughton

"Clare's language is composed from the most diverse elements: literary, archaic, elevated, borrowed, familiar, dialectical, and invented." Barbara Strang

"Clare's approach to eighteenth-century poetry was complex. He would have noticed how optical and landscape terms had become assimilated into political and social metaphors . . . Clare's problem as an artist is how to write descriptive poetry about his own landscape without recourse to this alien vocabulary." Timothy Brownlow

"Nature seems to be in constant motion, flitting past the poet's eye in such kinetic profusion that it threatens to break up the comfortable pictorial framework and the correspondingly strict verse-forms. It is all too much for the eye to take in and rather than solve it in the easy way by succumbing to the convention, Clare senses that a new form of perception will have to be invented." Timothy Brownlow

"De Wint, when asked why he never signed his pictures, replied that his pictures were signed all over. Clare could have said the same thing." Timothy Brownlow



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Published @ RC

December 2006