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The DEATHS of the Poets by Michael Symmons Roberts & Paul Farley

What is the price of poetry? An examination of how the deaths of great poets have shaped our culture’s distorted sense of poetry.

From Chatterton’s Pre-Raphaelite demise to Keats’ death warrant in a smudge of arterial blood; from Dylan Thomas’s eighteen straight whiskies to Sylvia Plath’s desperate suicide in the gas oven of her Primrose Hill kitchen or John Berryman’s leap from a bridge onto the frozen Mississippi, the deaths of poets have often cast a backward shadow on their work.

The post-Romantic myth of the dissolute drunken poet – exemplified by Thomas and made iconic by his death in New York – has fatally skewed the image of poets in our culture. Novelists can be stable, savvy, politically adept and in control, but poets should be melancholic, doomed and self-destructive. Is this just a myth, or is there some essential truth behind it: that great poems only come when a poet’s life is pushed right to an emotional knife-edge of acceptability, safety, security? What is the price of poetry? In this book, two contemporary poets undertake a series of journeys – across Britain, America and Europe – to the death places of poets of the past, in part as pilgrims, honouring inspirational writers, but also as investigators, interrogating the myth. The result is a book that is, in turn, enlightening and provocative, eye-wateringly funny and powerfully moving.

Michael Symmons Roberts‘s sixth collection of poetry, Drysalter, was the winner of both the Forward Prize and the Costa Poetry Prize in 2013. He has published two novels, and is Professor of Poetry at Manchester Metropolitan University.
Paul Farley is the author of four collections of poetry and has won the Forward Prize for Best First Collection, the Whitbread Poetry Award and the E. M. Forster Award.
Edgelands, co-written with Michael Symmons Roberts, received the Royal Society of Literature’s Jerwood Award and the 2011 Foyles Best Book of Ideas Award and was serialised as Radio 4 Book of the Week.

The Deaths of the Poets
Michael Symmons Roberts & Paul Farley
ISBN : 9780224097543
Hardback, 400 pages
February 2017
Publisher: Random House Children’s Publishers UK

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