A Driftwood Altar: Essays and Reviews

Mark FordPublication: September 28th, 2005


Mark Ford is widely regarded as one of the most exciting and innovative British poets of his generation. His two collections, Landlocked (1992) and Soft Sift (2001) have been highly praised by poets and critics in Britain and America, and translated into numerous languages. He is also an incisive and alert commentator on the work of others; over the last fifteen years his articles and reviews have appeared on a regular basis in journals such as the London Review of Books, the Times Literary Supplement, the New York Review of Books, Poetry Review and the New Republic. A Driftwood Altar is Ford's own selection of the best of these pieces. They cover an impressive range of British, American and European authors, and cast a fascinating light on Ford's own development as a poet. He writes with particular verve on the eccentric and off-beat – on the likes of Mina Loy, F.T. Marinetti, the Australian hoax poet Ern Malley, the Oulipian Georges Perec, the brilliant, doomed Romantic Thomas Lovell Beddoes. These essays reveal a judicious eye for detail and an infectious interest in authors often overlooked by literary history. Yet Ford also tackles some of the major figures of the twentieth century, and his articles on canonical poets like Elizabeth Bishop and W.H. Auden offer provocative and compelling new perspectives on their work. A Driftwood Altar is a lucid, beguiling, and often hilarious collection of essays, and is sure to consolidate Ford's reputation as one of the foremost poet-critics of the age.

ISBN: 978-1-904130-16-1 Extent: 304pp Category: Tag:

A Driftwood Altar: Essays and Reviews

“I can think of few more trustworthy, and few more attentive, guides to modern and contemporary letters than Mark Ford, who responds to the challenge of involuted works with prose of absolute clarity, renders judgments at once authoritative and agreeable, and sees vivid connections where lesser readers see only impassable borders. From paragons of craft to parables of estrangement, from the manic energies of F. T. Marinetti to the painstaking humility of Elizabeth Bishop, from the wholly invented Ern Malley to the stranger-than-fiction archive of Raymond Roussel, Ford’s essays will tell you what you need to know, then send you off in search of the wonderful works – from France, Italy, America, Britain, Australia – which Ford’s writings bring to your attention, and which, without him, you might not quite understand. " – Stephen Burt

“It’s a wonderful joke that a group of writers so wayward, difficult, elusive and outright crazy should be the subject of essays so vivid, funny, crisp and sane. If more literary criticism were like this, more people would read it.” – John Lanchester

“Mark Ford’s brilliant essays explicate a canon that may be unfamiliar to some readers: the work of the American Parisian experimentalist Harry Mathews, the Surrealists Raymond Roussel and André Breton, the Modernist poet Mina Loy, the Futurist Marinetti. He brings calmly analytical powers to bear on work that is often wild and strange; and his own charm matches the charm of many of the writers he discusses. What emerges is the most lucid and eloquent defence of Postmodern experiment I have ever read. Yet Ford’s historical and literary sense is so acute, his desire to reach back into the poetic tradition so strong, that a kind of alternative history of Modernism itself is also offered. It is a remarkable achievement.” – James Wood