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Ruth Fainlight: New & Collected Poems

Ruth Fainlight: New & Collected Poems

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Ian McMillan's Book of the Year on Simon Mayo's Radio 2 Book Club

Ruth Fainlight is one of Britain's most distinguished poets. Born in New York City, she has lived mostly in England since the age of 15, publishing her first collection, Cages, in 1966. Her poems "give us truly new visions of usual and mysterious events" (A.S. Byatt). Each is a balancing act between thought and feeling, revealing otherness within the everyday, often measuring subtle shifts in relationships between women and men.

Images of the moon, however interpreted – whether as stern and stony presence or protective maternal symbol – recur throughout her work. Peter Porter described one of her collections as having "the steadiness and clarity of the moon itself".

This substantial New & Collected Poems covers work written over 50 years, drawing on over a dozen books as well as a whole new collection. It also includes her translations of Sophia de Mello Breyner, Jean Joubert, Sophocles, and several leading modern Latin American poets, including César Vallejo, Blanca Varela, Elsa Cross and Victor Manuel Mendiola, and two of her opera libretti, The Dancer Hotoke and The Bride in Her Grave.

"This collection of more than 50 years’ work has a cover with a Coptic peacock in yellow and blue, which looks primitive and childlike, yet rises out of a sensibility of immense sophistication. So indeed do these poems by one of the most distinguished poets writing in Britain today."
Elaine Feinstein, The Times

"Ruth Fainlight’s collection has an extraordinary maturity of voice and vision... The essential continuity of her work is immediately striking: the poems affirm her own sense of poetry (and life) as a constant happening, the past a perpetual present."
The Guardian

"These 544 tidily bound pages might at a cursory glance look like a daunting prospect. On closer acquaintance, no one aspiring to an overview of modern poetry in English will want it to be absent from their shelves..."
Michael Horovitz, The Independent

"Ruth Fainlight has always been a painterly poet, sensuous and observant, who has paid particular attention to myth as it shapes destiny or gives meaning… the reader is aware of images being thought and felt through, the mind winding itself into narratives, prompted now by pain, now loss, now keen pleasure."
George Szirtes, Times Literary Supplement

"If there is a suggestion of feminist defiance here, so much the better; at least Fainlight isn't strident. With so much talent and confidence, she doesn't need to be."
Derek Mahon, London Review of Books

"Her voice can be cutting as well as lyrical… Fainlight is terrific on the subject of ageing."
Helen Dunmore, Poetry Review

“Few poets have published a fraction of work as worth reading, time after time, as Ruth Fainlight's is.”
Michael Horovitz, The Jewish Chronicle

"She combines, often in one poem, the personal and the austerely detached, and excels at the uncanny note of casual recognition."
The Oxford Companion to English Literature

"To my mind, the virtues of Ruth Fainlight's voice have never been more needed. At a time when there are so many ready to urge poets to take their place in the media market-place, Fainlight's poetry is a reminder that poems are not merely products for display and sale, but arise out of privacy and dedication."
Elaine Feinstein, The Jewish Quarterly

"In a tradition various enough to include Emily Dickinson, Mary Coleridge, Christina Rossetti and Charlotte Mew, her poetry gets on with itself, not self-absorbed but quite independent."
John Bayley, London Review of Books