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Rediscovering Angela Carter's poetry: Images that stick and splinter in the mind

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Carter’s early verse contains, as if in bud, the extravagant and sinister blossoms of her later work. As a new collection of her poems is published, Rosemary Hill uncovers some forgotten treasures

Angela Carter’s reputation has had a switchback ride. She went, as she put it, from being “a very promising young writer” in the 60s to being “completely ignored in two novels”. Her critical status revived in the 80s with the reimagined fairy stories of The Bloody Chamber and the films The Magic Toyshop and The Company of Wolves, but she never enjoyed what she called “the pleasantest but most evanescent kind of fame, which is that during your own lifetime”. Since her death in 1992 her stock has risen. She has been called one of the 20th century’s best writers and Lambeth council has named a street in Brixton after her.

In 2012, when the London Review of Books asked me to write a piece on Carter’s work, I had mixed feelings. I was of the 80s generation that did not so much read as inhale her in my 20s, and what impresses you at that age doesn’t always bear revisiting. She did. I found her improved by time, having outgrown the categories – magic realist, feminist, gothic – into which she had been awkwardly crammed. I realised too that she was funnier than my earnest younger self had noticed, so I reread all of the work I could find. But I found no poetry.

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