The Professor of Poetry by Grace McCleen - review by Memphis Barker

Memphis Barker

Stone Agonistes

The Professor of Poetry


Sceptre 296pp £14.99 order from our bookshop

Rather threadbare as a love story, Grace McCleen’s swelling second novel takes literature as its passion: how to make it, how to read it, how to feel it in your bones. Barely a page goes by without a dab of Milton or T S Eliot. This is in itself no bad thing – great novels have been written about writing – but here a syrupy love of words, shared by narrator and author, ends up smothering what promise The Professor of Poetry initially offers.

We meet narrator Elizabeth Stone as a 53-year-old English professor in a London university and follow her as she returns to her alma mater. Her ostensible aim is to write a thesis on the ‘poetics of sound’, though lurking beneath is an unfinished romance with Edward Hunt, her old tutor.

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