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Poem of the week: Sonnet of Irreconcilables by Christopher Middleton

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A classical music broadcast foregrounds fears of a cheapening of culture, and the possibility of mass brutalisation, in this late work from a poet with a unique and original voice

This week's poem, Sonnet of Irreconcilables, is from the 2006-2009 section of Christopher Middleton's Collected Later Poems, a magnificent winter harvest of recent work. It belongs to a gathering of poems headed For Want of an Axiom, whose epigraph quotes from Charles Lamb's Essays of Elia: "What an antique air had the almost effaced sundials, with their moral inscriptions, seeming coevals with that Time which they measured, and to take their revelations of its flight immediately from heaven, holding correspondence with the fountain of light!"

"Time is for music, on with it," proclaims the speaker in Vasily Kalinnikov Composes, a neighbouring poem in For Want of an Axiom. Music and time are recurrent themes. Another preoccupation is corruption not as a natural, physical effacement, but as moral evil. That the breakdown may begin with language is implicated in the splintered structure of the sonnet, and the Orwellian insistence on responsibility towards "sensitive words" and, no less, to honest "statistics of bloodshed".

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