Oliver Dennis

Oliver Dennis on Three Recent Releases



Carcanet 80pp £9.95 order from our bookshop

Taller When Prone


Carcanet 88pp £9.95 order from our bookshop

A Hundred Doors


Jonathan Cape 51pp £10 order from our bookshop

Thought to have been written by the author of Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, Pearl is one of the glories of Middle English poetry, and counts among the great poems about paternal love in the language. As Bernard O’Donoghue points out in his introduction to Jane Draycott’s fine new translation (Carcanet xxpp £9.95), the poem has struggled to emerge from the long shadow cast by Gawain, despite having had a history of notable translators, including J R R Tolkien. It hasn’t helped matters that Pearl has a remarkably complex metrical system, consisting of groups of five twelve-line alliterative stanzas with interlocking rhymes and a series of ‘link-words’ that generate continuity and a sense of resonance throughout. Sensibly, though she preserves the stanza form, Draycott makes no attempt to reproduce the rhyme scheme, relying instead on alliteration and link-words (pearl, bliss, radiance, jewels, glitter, longing, quarrel and so on) to capture something of the weight and circular allusiveness of the original. The effect – notwithstanding the odd prosaic line – is mesmerising.

Sign Up to our newsletter

Receive free articles, highlights from the archive, news, details of prizes, and much more.

Follow Literary Review on Twitter

  • Last Tweets

    • Why did the 'bold and determined' Empress Matilda never manage to become Queen regnant? Peter Marshall reviews a n… ,
    • From the Archive: Martyn Bedford on Ian McEwan's 'Atonement' ,
    • In 'Silenced Voices' reports the ongoing story of the human rights lawyer, Nasrin Sotoudeh, who has been… ,
    • The mystery of Jack the Ripper's identity has long been agonised over. But what do we know about his victims?… ,
    • A piece of Literary Review history from way back in 1983: John Haffenden talks to the great Iris Murdoch. ,
    • Britain’s only travelling lit fest, the Garden Museum Literary Festival is heading to Houghton Hall, Norfolk, for a… ,
    • 'The 19th-century German sage is not my idea of a pleasant travel companion' goes hiking with Friedr… ,