Book review: Deaths Of The Poets

Convinced that “language and death converge with particular power in poets”, two awardwinning versifiers traverse the globe looking up the places where other poets died.

Paul Farley and Michael Symmons Roberts

Jonathan Cape, €17.50;

ebook, €11.65

They track down the scene of the final moments of everyone from John Clare to William Carlos Williams, interview survivors and flame-keepers, inspect the archived papers, and ruminate on posterity and the tendency of poets to endure disproportionate misery and die premature deaths. 

Opening sections, which take in Keats, Byron, Chatterton, and the myth of the doomed Romantic artist, promise the development of an argument that never really materialises.

What we get instead is a whistlestop tour of last gasps and literary shrines, rather meanderingly structured, that combines elements of travelogue, literary criticism and biographical gossip.

The authors are agreeable, well-informed and slyly humorous company, and their book is richly absorbing in places.


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