Image by Caroline Forbes

Dannie Abse

b. 1923


Who says the world is not a wedding? - 'O Taste and See', Dannie Abse

O Taste and See

Dannie Abse

In the theatre

Dannie Abse

Pathology of colours

Dannie Abse

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About Dannie Abse

Dannie Abse (b. 1923) is a poet, playwright and novelist whose literary career spans half a century, the first of his fourteen collections of poetry, After Every Green Thing, being published in 1948, his latest collected appearing in 2003. In between Abse has established himself as one of Britain's leading and most popular poets. Brought up in Cardiff, Abse draws on both his Welsh roots and Jewish inheritance but is above all famous for combining the twin careers of author and doctor. The influence of the latter on the former is considerable and has helped develop his unique identity in British poetry.

This recording begins with an early poem, 'Epithalamion', in which Abse's characteristic concerns can already be heard in the repeated refrain "all the living and all the dead." Most poets have an acute sense of mortality but Abse's professional life as a doctor gives him a more precise and intimate perspective (and vocabulary) than most. His explicitly "medical" poems reveal both his clear-eyed knowledge and his compassion for the suffering and dying, a combination that runs through all his work and makes his poetry appealing despite its often dark subject matter. The 'Pathology of Colours' for example is precise in its examination of the varying hues of disease without being clinical, unflinching without being morbid. His work also acknowledges the mystery at the heart of life and its ending as in his haunting poem 'In the theatre' which chronicles the death of a patient during brain surgery. There are no easy consolations in Abse's work, however his alertness to "those bright/truant things that will not keep" ('O Taste and See') sounds a note of sober celebration.

This recording brings out the more dramatic qualities of Abse's verse, particularly his use of dialogue and the snatches of speech scattered through his poems which connect the listener to lost communities. The recording ends with 'Last Words' a poem that movingly complements the opening celebration of marriage, and which is made all the more powerful by the warm mahogany timbre of Abse's voice.

His recording was made on 17 August 2001 at the poet's home in London and was produced by Richard Carrington.

Dannie Abse's Favourite Poetry Sayings:

"Chance favours the prepared mind." - Louis Pasteur on inspiration

"We are only undefeated because we go on trying." - T. S. Eliot

Selected bibliography

Dannie Abse, by Tony Curtis. University of Wales Press,...

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Poetry of Dannie Abse, Robson Books 1983

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The Presence, Vintage 2008

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100 Great Poems of Love and Lust, Anova Books 2007

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New Selected Poems Arrow Books Ltd 2009

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Poems! Dannie Abse: A Selection, London, Vista, 1963 -...

Touch Wood: Poems and a Story, Gwynedd, Gwasg Carreg...

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Encounters (translator), London, Hearing Eye, 2001

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Homage to Eros: 100 Great Poems of Love and Lust(editor...

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The Two Roads Taken (prose miscellany), London,...

Goodbye, Twentieth Century (autobiography), London,...

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Intermittent Journals, Bridgend, Wales, Seren, 1994

A Strong Dose of Myself (essays), Hutchinson, 1983 - out...

Twentieth Century Anglo-Welsh Poetry (editor), Seren,...

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The Gregory Anthology 1991-1993 (editor with A....

The Hutchinson Book of Post-War British Poetry (editor...

The Music Lover's Literary Companion (editor with Joan...

Voices in the Gallery (editor with Joan Abse), London,...

Modern European Verse (editor), London, Studio Vista,...

Mavericks (editor with Howard Sergeant), London,...

There Was A Young Man From Cardiff, Hutchinson, 1991 -...

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Journals from the Ant Heap, Hutchinson, 1986 - out of...

Pythagoras, Hutchinson, 1979 - out of print

Penguin Modern Poets 26 (contributor with D. J. Enright...

A Poet in the Family, Hutchinson, 1974 - out of print

The Dogs of Pavlov, London, Vallantine, M., 1973 - out...

Selected Poems, Hutchinson, 1970 - out of print

O. Jones, O. Jones, Hutchinson, 1970 - out of print

Poems, Golders Green, Hutchinson, 1962 - out of print

Some Corner of an English Field, Hutchinson, 1956 - out...

Fire in Heaven, Hutchinson, 1956 - out of print

Ash on a Young Man's Sleeve, Hutchinson, 1954 - out of...

Running Late, Hutchinson, 2006

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The Yellow Bird, Sheep Meadow Press, 2004

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New and Collected Poems, Hutchinson, 2003

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Be Seated Thou: Poems 1989-1998, New York, Sheep Meadow...

Arcadia, One Mile, Hutchinson, 1998 - out of print

Welsh Retrospective; a selection, Seren, 1997

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Selected Poems, Penguin, 1994 - out of print

On the Evening Road, Hutchinson, 1994 - out of print

Remembrance of Crimes Past, Hutchinson, 1990 and Persea...

White Coat, Purple Coat: Collected Poems 1948-1988,...

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Ask The Bloody Horse, Hutchinson, 1986 and as Sky in...

Way Out in the Centre, Hutchinson, 1981 and as One-...

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Collected Poems 1948-1976, Hutchinson, 1977 and...

Funland and Other Poems, Hutchinson, 1973, and New York...

A Small Desperation, Hutchinson, 1968 - out of print

Tenants of the House, Hutchinson, 1957, and New York,...

Walking Under Water, Hutchinson, 1952 - out of print

After Every Green Thing, London, Hutchinson, 1948 - out...

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