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Unicorn: The poetry of Angela Carter

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a) The Unicorn As with the night-scented stock, the full splendour of the unicorn manifests itself most potently at twilight. Then the horn sprouts, swells, blooms in all its glory. SEE THE HORN (bend the tab, slit in slot marked 'x') Despite being one of the most influential - and best-loved - of the post-war English writers, Angela Carter remains little-known as a poet. In a) The Unicorn As with the night-scented stock, the full splendour of the unicorn manifests itself most potently at twilight. Then the horn sprouts, swells, blooms in all its glory. SEE THE HORN (bend the tab, slit in slot marked 'x') Despite being one of the most influential - and best-loved - of the post-war English writers, Angela Carter remains little-known as a poet. In Unicorn, the critic and historian Rosemary Hill collects together her published verse from 1963-1971, a period in which Carter began to explore the themes that dominated her later work: magic, the reworking of myths and their darker sides, and the overturning of literary and social conventions. With imagery at times startling in its violence and disconcerting in its presentation of sexuality, Unicorn provides compelling insight into the formation of a remarkable imagination. In the essay that accompanies the poems the critic and historian Rosemary Hill considers them in the context of Carter's other work and as an aspect of the 1960s, the decade which as Carter put it 'wasn't like they say in the movies'.


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a) The Unicorn As with the night-scented stock, the full splendour of the unicorn manifests itself most potently at twilight. Then the horn sprouts, swells, blooms in all its glory. SEE THE HORN (bend the tab, slit in slot marked 'x') Despite being one of the most influential - and best-loved - of the post-war English writers, Angela Carter remains little-known as a poet. In a) The Unicorn As with the night-scented stock, the full splendour of the unicorn manifests itself most potently at twilight. Then the horn sprouts, swells, blooms in all its glory. SEE THE HORN (bend the tab, slit in slot marked 'x') Despite being one of the most influential - and best-loved - of the post-war English writers, Angela Carter remains little-known as a poet. In Unicorn, the critic and historian Rosemary Hill collects together her published verse from 1963-1971, a period in which Carter began to explore the themes that dominated her later work: magic, the reworking of myths and their darker sides, and the overturning of literary and social conventions. With imagery at times startling in its violence and disconcerting in its presentation of sexuality, Unicorn provides compelling insight into the formation of a remarkable imagination. In the essay that accompanies the poems the critic and historian Rosemary Hill considers them in the context of Carter's other work and as an aspect of the 1960s, the decade which as Carter put it 'wasn't like they say in the movies'.

30 review for Unicorn: The poetry of Angela Carter

  1. 5 out of 5

    Christine

    Personally, I think her short stories are far superior. The title poem, "Unicorn", is worth reading however. There are two good poems about cats too.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Lynsy

    Although I liked a few of Carter's lines, I didn't care for the poetry as a whole. I did, however, like the way she incorporated the idea of "living as performance." I especially loved Hill's quote: "Who controls whom, who is writing the drama and who is the actor (58)?" I don't think I'll ever tire of the concept because I find it to be true every day. Read the review on my blog here.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Joyce

    Carter's poetry is good (certainly striking and of a piece with her prose) but not quite great. Rosemary Hill's essays are what really bump it up to four stars, showing just how they fit into Carter's oeuvre and 60s literature in general. One for Carter completists such as myself) or those interested in the period.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Marine

    A useful collection of Carter's poetry which, if I am perfectly honest, is more of a collector's item for people like me than a groundbreaking piece of work - especially in the light of what came later - but worth reading for Carter's translations and blend of Medieval and Avant-garde influences.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Gemma

    3.5 stars rounded up personally I preferred the essay by Rosemary Hill to the poetry in this collection, but that in itself held a different kind of charm. the poetry evokes strong images and feelings, often of a visceral and a violent nature. the contrast this creates with the clear folkloric and wider literary inspiration is what makes them truly unique and so compelling. Hill is able to set this writing in the context of carter's life, as well as within the literary and literal world of the 3.5 stars rounded up personally I preferred the essay by Rosemary Hill to the poetry in this collection, but that in itself held a different kind of charm. the poetry evokes strong images and feelings, often of a visceral and a violent nature. the contrast this creates with the clear folkloric and wider literary inspiration is what makes them truly unique and so compelling. Hill is able to set this writing in the context of carter's life, as well as within the literary and literal world of the 60s era. Framing carter's writing in this manner brought a new perspective of her work, and the work of other female writers of this time, that I had not considered before and which alone would have made this book worth the read.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Jess Jordan

    While Carters poetry most definitely falls short of her fiction, it is so interesting to read and there are some real gems in there. Its clear why Unicorn was chosen for the title story - what a surreal and wonderful poem it is. Rosemary Hills essays at the end are also quite interesting, though the second feels a little like one she couldnt place so just dotted a few Carter mentions in so she could home it here. The final essay, Hairy Fairies, is pretty great though and gives some interesting While Carter’s poetry most definitely falls short of her fiction, it is so interesting to read and there are some real gems in there. It’s clear why Unicorn was chosen for the title story - what a surreal and wonderful poem it is. Rosemary Hill’s essays at the end are also quite interesting, though the second feels a little like one she couldn’t place so just dotted a few Carter mentions in so she could home it here. The final essay, ‘Hairy Fairies’, is pretty great though and gives some interesting insight into Carter’s novels. Overall, really enjoyed and would recommend to anyone with an interest in Angela Carter’s work.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Jere

    Q. What have unicorns and virgins got in common? A. They are both fabulous beasts. Some poems I loved, some I just didn't. Like many others, I enjoyed Unicorn and the essays by Rosemary Hill the most. Cat poems are interesting, and Poem for a Wedding Photograph (1965 and 1966 versions) has some evergreen sweet melancholy to it that I really liked. The rest were fine, but didn't leave a lasting impression on me. Also, 'hannabi' (flower fire - Japanese word for fireworks) should be written as Q. What have unicorns and virgins got in common? A. They are both fabulous beasts. Some poems I loved, some I just didn't. Like many others, I enjoyed Unicorn and the essays by Rosemary Hill the most. Cat poems are interesting, and Poem for a Wedding Photograph (1965 and 1966 versions) has some evergreen sweet melancholy to it that I really liked. The rest were fine, but didn't leave a lasting impression on me. Also, 'hannabi' (flower fire - Japanese word for fireworks) should be written as 'hanabi'

  8. 4 out of 5

    Jazz

    This short book offers a quick glance into how the publishing world treated Angela Carter and other women writers of the 1960s. It doesn't offer any meaty critique of her work. It's sort of just a few organized, but not highly explored thoughts on her poetry, prose, and the times in which she wrote them. The bibliography offers much more reading material.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Katy

    More like 3.7 or thereabouts. Despite being a massive fan of Carter's prose, I agree with other reviews that the eponymous poem is the most enjoyable, and that Rosemary Hill's essay is potentially the most interesting part of the book. I shall continue to enjoy her prose, but maybe not make such effort to read her poetry again.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Jennifer Canaveral

    The poetic prose Angela Carter uses in her novels is seen in a more raw form in this book. It does not contain a lot of poetry but the little it does contain demonstrates the author's love of using "purple, self-indulgent prose", as she once admitted unapologetically. If you are a fan of Carter, this book of her poems, as well as an essay from Rosemary Hill, is definitely worth a read.

  11. 4 out of 5

    VG

    These poems are not bad, but Angela Carters style and often incredible writing seem better suited to a longer form. These poems are not bad, but Angela Carter’s style and often incredible writing seem better suited to a longer form.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Emma Filtness

    Interesting poems with imagery familiar from her more fantastical prose. The titular poem Unicorn is by far the most intriguing.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Lizzie

    I could have done without Hills essay, here; otherwise some thrillingly bloody poems abound. I could have done without Hill’s essay, here; otherwise some thrillingly bloody poems abound.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Rainey

    Interesting essays on Carter, but the poetry is not for me.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Eva

    Essays more interesting than the poetry.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Stuart

    ...and the nursery grew rank with metaphysics aerobatic tea trays at an evening party where he was the only guest

  17. 5 out of 5

    Liam Guilar

    Hard to rate. The Essay/s by Rosemary Hill is/are worth the price of admission.(For some reason it's billed as An essay but three distinctly titled paris.) They're a fine discussion of Carter's context and her work, and they are elegantly written. The poems themselves take up about slightly less than half this little book and while some of them are good, they are nowhere near as interesting as her prose. If she's not well known as a poet, then if this is her poetic output, that's entirely Hard to rate. The Essay/s by Rosemary Hill is/are worth the price of admission.(For some reason it's billed as An essay but three distinctly titled paris.) They're a fine discussion of Carter's context and her work, and they are elegantly written. The poems themselves take up about slightly less than half this little book and while some of them are good, they are nowhere near as interesting as her prose. If she's not well known as a poet, then if this is her poetic output, that's entirely understandable. It's probably essential reading for Carter's admirers, both for the poems themselves and Hill's essay/s.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Darla

    To echo others, aside from "Unicorn", Carter's poetry lacked that spark that draws me moth-like to her other work. Rosemary Hill really steals the show here, and her essays were a pleasure to read, providing historical, contextual, and biographical insight to Carter's poems and greater oeuvre. This read was worthwhile for those essays along with the titular poem, and to see a rarer (if lackluster) side of Carter.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Annette Boehm

    After greatly enjoying Carter's novel The Magic Toyshop, I was curious about her poetry. Turns out she didn't write much poetry, but what she did write was interesting. This handsome volume collects her published poems as well as several well-written essays about the time period in which they were written as well as how the poetry already shows features that later become trademarks of Carter's novels.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Helen

    I had no idea that Angel Carter had written poetry. Honestly, this is the type of poetry I really do not understand (my failing not Carter's). I enjoyed reading it, though I was adrift for meaning and understanding. The essays that concluded this collection were illuminating and enjoyable

  21. 5 out of 5

    Matthew

    I lost it. I'm sure it's in my apartment. But where? Found it under my bed.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Jessica Cripps

  23. 5 out of 5

    Lauren

  24. 5 out of 5

    Marita Arvaniti

  25. 4 out of 5

    James Haliburton

  26. 5 out of 5

    Julia Desiree

  27. 5 out of 5

    Laura S

  28. 4 out of 5

    Ruby Rogers-Phillips

  29. 5 out of 5

    Anna McKenzie

  30. 5 out of 5

    Enya

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