In 2010 I completed a PhD on the Regency poet George Crabbe. I have been working on Crabbe’s poetry since 2004, examining it in the context of his religious and botanical writing. I am interested in it in terms of its disregard for generalities; these are not, as critics have suggested, simple ‘moral tales’ but show a more complex view on life than that term suggests. Far from being the anachronism of Augustan verse that F.R. Leavis deemed it to be, I argue that it delivers something new, is indeed a precursor of Victorian realism.
Central to the work is a reassessment of Crabbe’s sermons, religious essays, prayers and drafts of a theological treatise, which have until now been largely overlooked. Crabbe’s position as a clergyman has never been considered to have much relevance to his role as a poet. This view, particularly repeated since Huchon’s 1904 biography, has suggested that the poet sought ‘to establish himself with a firm income […] by taking orders’, however examination of the sermons reveals a strikingly different portrait of a convicted and passionate preacher. The background of this other writing creates a new approach to the work.
In his lifetime Crabbe was criticised extensively for his attention to minor detail, but these sermons indicate why his poetry is so specific: the poet-preacher attempting to uncover the proof and implicit work of a God in the detail of creation. Interestingly, given the increasingly secular context for the development of realism, the conception of Crabbe’s realism in the poems rests to a large extent in his firm Anglican faith, which did not permit certainties to be known about individuals’ lives.
I am currently writing a biography of the poet A.S.J. Tessimond (1902-1962). Once a well-regarded voice in the British poetry press, Tessimond has in recent years almost disappeared from public view. While his work is still often anthologised, what we know of the man himself is limited at best. Since 2006 I have been working to uncover more about Tessimond’s life and work with a view to assembling a critical and biographical study. Some early thoughts on the poet can be found here and some more recent thoughts, here. In 2010 I was asked to contribute to a programme in Brian Patten’s Radio Four series Lost Voices (first broadcast 11th April 2010) in which I talk about my work on this important, but overlooked, voice of the twentieth century.
Ezra Pound & Martin Heidegger
I have previously worked on ontology and poetic invention in Pound’s The Cantos and the writing of Martin Heidegger.