Writers like to elude their public, lead them a bit of a dance. They take them down untrodden paths, land them in unknown country where they have to ask for directions.
In this personal anthology, Alan Bennett has chosen over seventy poems by six well-loved poets, discussing the writers and their verse in his customary conversational style through anecdote, shrewd appraisal and spare but telling biographical detail. Ranging from hidden treasures to famous poems, this is a collection for the beginner and the expert alike. Speaking with candour about his own reactions to the work, Alan Bennett creates profound and witty portraits of Thomas Hardy, A. E. Housman, John Betjeman, W. H. Auden, Louis MacNeice and Philip Larkin, all the more enjoyable for being in his own particular voice.
Anybody writing poetry in the thirties had somehow to come to terms with Auden. Auden, you see, had got a head start on the other poets. He'd got into the thirties first, like someone taking over the digs.
Alan Bennett has been one of our leading dramatists since Beyond the Fringe in the 1960s. His television series Talking Heads has become a modern-day classic. The History Boys won numerous awards both at the National Theatre, London, and on Broadway. Also at the NT: The Habit of Art, People and Cocktail Sticks. His collection of prose Untold Stories won the PEN/Ackerley Prize for autobiography. Fiction includes The Uncommon Reader and Smut: Two Unseemly Stories.