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The Stairwell by Michael Longley

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Shortlisted for the T S Eliot Poetry Prize 2014.

The Stairwell is a richly textured, immensely moving work. Michael Longley has the rare ability to fuse emotional depth with complicated artistry: to make them, somehow, the same thing.


The Stairwell by Michael Longley

Shortlisted for the T S Eliot Poetry Prize 2014.

In The Stairwell, his tenth collection, Michael Longley's themes and forms reach a new intensity. The second part of the book is a powerful sequence of elegies for his twin brother, Peter, and the dominant mood elsewhere is elegiac. The title poem begins: 'I have been thinking about the music for my funeral ...' The two parts are also linked by Homer. Longley is well-known for his Homeric versions, and the Iliad is a presiding presence - both in poems about the Great War and in the range of imagery that gives his twin's death a mythic dimension. Yet funeral music can be life-affirming. Longley has built this collection on intricate doublings, not only when he explores the tensions of twinship. The psychologically suggestive word 'stairwell' is itself an ambiguous compound. These poems encompass birth as well as death, childhood and age, nature and art, the animal and human worlds, tenderness and violence, battlefield and 'homeland'.


'It is...the warmth in Longley's writing that marks his poems out, makes them cherishable. Never forced, that affection is simply there.' -- Kate Kellaway Observer

'Longley's 10th collection weaves his classical themes of war, family and flaura and fauna into measured songs of commemoration for those he has loved.' -- Paul McCartney Sunday Times

'A book of tiny, delicately lyrical commemorations and commendations. Tablet The a stupendous collection of quiet beauty and universal significance.' -- Bel Mooney Daily Mail

'The book I have loved best, and have gone back to again and again.' -- Adam Nicolson Evening Standard

About the Author

Michael Longley was born in Belfast in 1939 and educated at the Royal Belfast Academical Institution and Trinity College Dublin where he read Classics. He has published nine collections of poetry including Gorse Fires (1991) which won the Whitbread Poetry Award, and The Weather in Japan (2000) which won the Hawthornden Prize, the T. S. Eliot Prize and the Irish Times Poetry Prize. His Collected Poems was published in 2006. In 2001 he received the Queen's Gold Medal for Poetry, and in 2003 the Wilfred Owen Award. He was awarded a CBE in 2010. He was Ireland Professor of Poetry, 2007-2010. He and his wife, the critic Edna Longley, live and work in Belfast.

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Book Info

Publication date

14th August 2014


Michael Longley

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Jonathan Cape Ltd an imprint of Vintage Publishing


80 pages


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