This review is taken from Stand 218, 16(2) May - June 2018.

Timely Masterclasses in Contemporary Formalism from N.S. Thompson

N.S. Thompson, Letter to Auden (Smokestack Books, 2010)
N.S. Thompson, Mr Larkin on Photography and Other Poems (Red Squirrel Press, 2016)

From the ancients Greeks onwards, the topic ‘What is good poetry’ has been debated. Presently, though, a pressing concern for Rebecca Watts is the rise of ‘a cohort of young female poets who are currently being lauded for their “honesty” and “accessibility” – buzzwords for the open denigration of intellectual engagement and rejection of craft that characterises their work.’4 I have attempted to read some of these excesses of ‘denigration of intellectual engagement and rejection of craft’, and commend N.S. Thompson as a timely antidote. Thompson is an acclaimed and widely published poet, critic and translator. His Letter to Auden and Mr Larkin on Photography illustrate the fact that ‘accessibility’ needn’t be demonised as long as it’s combined with craftsmanship. Both publications are accessible, (albeit possibly not for ‘the mentally unemployed who like to have their brain food cut up for them’),5 and supremely crafted.
Thompson invites us to join him in ‘the gentle art of looking artfully’ in his alternately witty and moving collection Mr Larkin on Photography and Other Poems, in which the poet’s attention to the musicality of his work is manifest. Initially, Scupham stanzas6 provide a leisurely pace for the title poem. ‘Mr Larkin on Photography’ might have morphed into a possible ‘Mr Thompson on Pornography’, were it not tempered with allusions to Larkin’s work, ...
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