One of the most powerful poets of his generation consolidates his reputation as an exceptionally forthright and astringent critic in this book that analyzes the relationship between English-language literature, especially poetry, and nineteenth and twentieth-century politics. Tom Paulin’s criticism stays on track, always responsive to a work’s characteristic genius and sensitive to its social setting.
Each of these essays—on poets ranging from Robert Southey and Christina Rossetti to Philip Larkin, from John Clare to Elizabeth Bishop and Ted Hughes, with a few excursions into the poetry of Eastern Europe for contrast—is informed by a love for poetry and a lively attention to detail. At every turn, Paulin demonstrates the intricate connection between the private imagination and society at large, simultaneously illuminating the kinship between the literature of the past and of the present. He also relates the poetry to themes of nationhood and to ideas about orality, speech rhythms, and vernacular background. Minotaur exemplifies the sort of general, accessible criticism of the arts that will interest a wide range of readers.