The Noise of a Fly by Douglas Dunn review – shortlisted for the TS Eliot prize

Larkin’s influence is still strong in this collection, which illuminates the natural world and the coming of old age

The Hebrew for fly, zvuv, “is surely one of the most magically exact onomatopoeias in any language”, Steven Connor writes in his study of the insect, Fly. News that Douglas Dunn’s poetic muse has taken wing again, 17 years after his last collection, deserves an onomatopoeic outburst of its own of relief and delight. Slacking is hardly a trait one associates with the diligent Dunn, but the opening quatrain, “Idleness”, listens out for “The sigh of an exhausted garden-ghost. / A poem trapped in an empty fountain pen.” There are ghosts and exhaustion aplenty in The Noise of a Fly, shortlisted for next week’s TS Eliot prize, but rarely if ever does the poet find himself stuck for words.

It is almost a half a century since Dunn made his debut with the ...

The Homeric Hymns and Herne the Hunter by Peter McDonald review – audacious and authoritative insights

A classical translation and a moving new collection make for a double achievement Never short of an opinion on these matters, Vladimir Nabokov ended his 1941 article “The Art of Translation” with a series of “requirements” for the production of an effective translation. According to the first of these, the translator “must have as much talent, or at least the same kind of talent, as the author he chooses”. This leaves the  field open for British Council-sponsored versions of promising young Bulgarians or Finns, but puts translators from the classics in an awkward position. Admiring Gavin Douglas’s 16th-century translation of Virgil’s Aeneid, Ezra Pound solved this problem by pronouncing the translation better than the original. George Chapman’s Jacobean translation of The Iliad is a wonderful thing, and one of the great unread texts of the English canon, but as good as, better than Homer? That’s a tall order. Most modern translators of Homer never get ...