Academic journal article John Clare Society Journal

The Shepherd's Calendar/This Happy Spirit: Poems of Clare/Careless Rambles by John Clare: A Selection of His Poems

Academic journal article John Clare Society Journal

The Shepherd's Calendar/This Happy Spirit: Poems of Clare/Careless Rambles by John Clare: A Selection of His Poems

Article excerpt

John Clare, The Shepherd's Calendar. Edited by ERIC ROBINSON, GEOFFREY SUMMERFIELD and DAVID POWELL. Second edition. Oxford: Oxford University Press. 2014. 128 pp. £12.99.

This Happy Spirit: Poems of Clare. Selected and edited by R.K.R. THORNTON and CARRY AKROYD. Illustrated by Carry Akroyd. Helpston, Peterborough: The John Clare Society. 2013. 140 pp. £8.99.

Careless Rambles by John Clare: A Selection of his Poems. Chosen and illustrated by TOM POHRT. Foreword by Robert Hass. Berkeley: Counterpoint. 2012. 112 pp. £17.99.

These three recent editions of Clare are notable for their fine illustrations and visual presentation, reminding one that Clare continues to inspire artists as well as writers. Each of these is a handsome book to handle. The Shepherd's Calendar, issued this year to mark the 150th anniversary of Clare's passing, is the same text that was produced for the last significant anniversary, Clare's bicentenary, 21 years ago in 1993. Clareans who own the older one (or the even older 1964 first edition) will nevertheless want the new book, I think, a finelyproduced, handsome and not too expensive hardback. Its dust-jacket replaces Constable's 'Cornfield' with a design based around David Gentleman's wood-engraving for 'February', one of twelve headpieces plus a title page vignette by this artist, which benefit greatly from being printed on good paper here. Their fine detail may be seen much more clearly than in the old paperback editions (the 1993 edition was printed on particularly poor-quality paper: mine is rapidly yellowing). This and a generously laidout text make this edition of Clare's classic work a real pleasure to read or browse.

I reviewed This Happy Spirit in the Newsletter last year, but it is worth noting again that Carry Akroyd's linocuts, dramatically different in style from the David Gentleman woodcuts, make a most effective accompaniment to the poems she and Kelsey Thornton have selected to illustrate the theme of joy in Clare's poetry. Professor Thornton's 1997 Everyman selection of Clare remains the most rewarding of the smaller editions, and not the least pleasure in This Happy Spirit is the talent for selecting and arranging that he and Carry have demonstrated here. …

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