About Christopher Middleton
Christopher Middleton (b. 1926) is best known for his poems, short prose, essays, and translations. He served in the RAF from 1944 to 1948, then attended Merton College, Oxford. After a spell of teaching English at the University of Zürich (1952-55), he became Lecturer (eventually Senior Lecturer) in German at King's College London (1955-65). From 1966 till 1998 he was Professor of Germanic Languages and Literature at the University of Texas, Austin; a further title was added in 1986, David J Bruton Centennial Prefessor of Modern Languages (he was active in the Comparative Literature Program). For Torse 3 he shared the Geoffrey Faber award, and was awarded in 1987 the Schlegel-Tieck Translation Prize. In the USA he is a "resident alien".
This reading features poems from two sequences, Twenty Tropes for Doctor Dark (1999) and The Fossil Fish (1969), plus 'Little William', an exploration of the child Shakespeare’s responses to music and words. Middleton describes the first sequence as "A series written at the close of the century and during the East Timor massacres [that] finds no end to the purgatory ablaze under the vestiges of an Epicurean paradox", and embraces a range of experience from the Kalashnikovs and the machete in 'A Far Cry from Fear Island' to the irresistible treats - 'jellies, twists / / of sugar firming cream into a script' - that are matched by the verbal exuberance portraying these details in 'A Sybaritic Elegy'. 'The Digging' presents a speaker who looks with nostalgia at 'A sunlit vault where the dead lay, smiling' as a horrific mass grave is revealed; a quest for refined pleasures can offer no response but to "return ... to simple tombs." 'Something Vesperal' turns his acute attention to these details on itself, recording how the initial, spectral apprehension is later refined.
This recording is as happy with the quick delivery demanded by the earlier sequence, The Fossil Fish, consisting of brief imagistic texts, as it is with the longer cadences of Twenty Tropes. Middleton is a fine reader, and he is confident in performing the voices of different speakers (e.g., with a French accent for Charles Meryon in Twenty Tropes). His introductions contextualise the poems without restricting them. This reading presents clear proof that Middleton is, in Guy Davenport’s description, "an incomparable stylist, a wry ironist, a philosopher of words."
His recording was made on 2 June 2003 at The Audio Workshop, London and was produced by Richard Carrington.
Christopher Middleton's Favourite Poetry Saying:
"Poetry shakes the laughter out of the apple tree" - Tristan Tzara
Tenor on Horseback Sheep Meadow Press,U.S., 2007
Tankard Cat Sheep Meadow Press,U.S., 2005
Some Dogs Enitharmon Press, 1997
Collected Poems, Carcanet 2008Buy
The Anti-Basilisk, Carcanet 2005Buy
Of the Mortal Fire, Sheep Meadow Press 2003Buy
Andalusian Poems (editor, with Leticia Garza-Falcón),...
Goethe, Selected Poems (editor / translator), Suhrkamp...Buy
Robert Walser, Selected Stories (editor / translator),...
Christopher Middleton Reading from his Poems
1Heavy Dog Sees Fish
2The Diving Apprentices
6Buffoon Voice in a Small Port
7A Bat, Less Familiar
9The Moon from a Box of Lokum
10A Far Cry from Fear Island
13Cassis, October 23, 1999
16Elegy of the Flowing Touch
17A Ballad of Arthur Rimbaud
19The Fossil Fish
The writer and broadcaster Clive James introduces a few of his favourite poems in the Poetry Archive.