‘vocal illyrian avowals’: Herbert Read and Abstract poetry

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‘What is a Poem?’ Herbert Read asked at the close of his final volume of poetry, Collected Poems (1966). This question was to preside over the later years of his career as both a poet and a critic, and to reach its most intriguing conclusion in his often-overlooked poetry collection ‘Vocal Avowals’. First printed in 1959 in Encounter, Read revisited this sequence throughout the final decade of his life, revised and reprinted for the 1962 collection Worte sagen aus, and then as the final section in Read’s Collected Poems. Misidentified by critics as the invention of a ‘supremely subjective romanticism’, these poems were composed at a moment of great philosophical curiosity and artistic ambition. Through Read’s contribution to an evolving ‘language of non-vocal signs’, his vocalizations on behalf of abstract art and his vital and incessant experiment in the realm between poetry and painting, these poems were to contribute to a stirring of the ‘drift’ of modern poetry in post-war Britain.
Original languageEnglish
JournalWord & Image
Publication statusPublished - 16 Nov 2015


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