James Fenton Quotes

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Writing for the page is only one form of writing for the eye. Wherever solemn inscriptions are put up in public places, there is a sense that the site and the occasion demand a form of writing which goes beyond plain informative prose. Each word is so valued that the letters forming it are seen as objects of solemn beauty.

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An aria in an opera - Handel's 'Ombra mai fu,' for example - gets along with an incredibly small number of words and ideas and a large amount of variation and repetition. That's the beauty of it. It's not taxing to the listener's intelligence because if you haven't heard it the first time round, it'll come around again.

Tags: | James Fenton,Time,Intelligence,Words,

An aria in an opera - Handel's 'Ombra mai fu,' for example - gets along with an incredibly small number of words and ideas and a large amount of variation and repetition. That's the beauty of it. It's not taxing to the listener's intelligence because if you haven't heard it the first time round, it'll come around again.

Tags: | James Fenton,Time,Beauty,Words,

Some people think that English poetry begins with the Anglo-Saxons. I don't, because I can't accept that there is any continuity between the traditions of Anglo-Saxon poetry and those established in English poetry by the time of, say, Shakespeare. And anyway, Anglo-Saxon is a different language, which has to be learned.

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Modernism in other arts brought extreme difficulty. In poetry, the characteristic difficulty imported under the name of modernism was obscurity. But obscurity could just as easily be a quality of metrical as of free verse.

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When we study Shakespeare on the page, for academic purposes, we may require all kinds of help. Generally, we read him in modern spelling and with modern punctuation, and with notes. But any poetry that is performed - from song lyric to tragic speech - must make its point, as it were, without reference back.

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Poetry carries its history within it, and it is oral in origin. Its transmission was oral. Its transmission today is still in part oral, because we become acquainted with poetry through nursery rhymes, which we hear before we can read.

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English poetry begins whenever we decide to say the modern English language begins, and it extends as far as we decide to say that the English language extends.

Tags: | James Fenton,Language,English Language,

My feeling is that poetry will wither on the vine if you don't regularly come back to the simplest fundamentals of the poem: rhythm, rhyme, simple subjects - love, death, war.

Tags: | James Fenton,Love,Death,War,

James Fenton

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James Fenton | Music Theatre International
Yellow Tulips by James Fenton - review | Books | The Guardian
James Fenton - James Fenton Poems - Poem Hunter

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