Image by Elissa Palser

RF Langley

b. 1938 d. 2011


A Midsummer Night's Dream might still be the answer to everything. - R. F. Langley

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About RF Langley

R. F. Langley (1938-2011), was not a prolific poet, but his work was noticed as long ago as 1979 by Jeff Nuttall, in his column in the Guardian, for its "sense of rhythm, sound and ...a concentrated spirit of immense impact". His Collected Poems was shortlisted for the 2000 Whitbread Prize for Poetry, and, since then, there have been some pamphlets from small presses, and quite frequent poems in periodicals, particularly in P.N. Review, where extracts from his journals also appear regularly. He kept a journal for more than forty years, and there is often interaction between this and the poetry.

The poems focus on particulars of places and creatures. If they are mysterious they are also as true to immediate fact as the poet can make them, and if they are odd it is often because particular experiences are so. They are occupied with sound, including internal rhyme, and would be disappointed with themselves if they did not tackle complex ideas, philosophical, psychological and aesthetic. They are always driven by etymological investigation, and often directly interested in why, on each occasion, this is necessary. It is poetry about observation, about how the detail of the world is being registered. The poems themselves are part of the data, and reward analysis. It has been said that they are informed by late modernist experimentation but have also a particularly English nostalgia and sense of loss. Charles Olson, Objectivism, Pound, Stevens, Hopkins, Wordsworth and much Shakespeare. He writes: "A Midsummer Night's Dream might still be the answer to everything."

Langley reads in a soft, welcoming voice, and prefers not to introduce the poems. We are invited to think of the role of the spectator, who sits down opposite Louise and whose "tongue / proves chocolate dust on cappuccino / froth". What constitutes "incredible November"? The beetle in 'Blues for Titania' is a green tiger beetle and the wasp a sand wasp. These things matter. So does the way Brancusi tried to eliminate all imperfections until his sculpture reached the original growing point, a core, the pure idea. If the specific references are not acknowledged, the implications are still active.

His recording was made on 9 March 2005 at the Audio Workshop, London and was produced by Richard Carrington.

Selected bibliography

Journals, Shearsman 2006

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The Face of It, Carcanet 2007

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R F Langley Reading from his Poems, The Poetry Archive...

Poetical Histories no. 30, Poetical Histories 1994 - out...

Jack, Equipage 1998 - out of print

Twelve Poems, infernal methods 1994 - out of print

Sidelong, infernal methods 1981 - out of print

Hem, infernal methods 1978 - out of print

Twine, Landfill Press 2004

Links

Recordings

R F Langley Reading from his Poems

1Mariana

2Man Jack

3Matthew Glover

4The Upshot

5The Gorgoneion

6Jack's Pigeon

7No Great Shakes

8After the Funeral

9Poor Moth

10Skrymir's Glove

11Still Life with Wineglass

12Blues for Titania

13Depending on the Weather

14Cook Ting

A tour of the Archive with Helen Gray

As a secondary schoolteacher in London for the past thirty years, it has been my privilege to have had a job which...

Featured Guided Tours


Books & cds by RF Langley