Partial Shade: Poems New and Selected by John Birtwhistle: Carcanet Book Launch

  • DATE

    28 June 2023

  • TIME

    7:00 pm to 8:00 pm

  • AGES

    All ages welcome



Please join us to celebrate the launch of Partial Shade: Poems New and Selected by John Birtwhistle. The reading will be hosted by academic and critic David Duff. The event will feature readings and discussion, and audience members will have the opportunity to ask their own questions. We will show the text during readings so that you can read along.

Registration for this online event will cost £2, later redeemable against the cost of the book. All attendees will receive the discount code and how to purchase the book during and after event.
‘Partial Shade’ is the common gardening term for plants that in fact need a measure of sunshine. In John Birtwhistle’s poems, there is a continual play of light and shadow – and even glimpses of ‘full sun’.

This selection from his own work does not follow chronology. It is an entirely fresh ordering, in which poems converse and argue with each other across the years. Lines about politics, parenting, mortality, art (and love, ‘that bookish theme’) are plaited together, intimate yet distinct.

Partial Shade is a new book for new readers. It makes available poems from out-of-print collections, as well as substantial new poems. The rhythm varies from lyric and narrative poems to ‘haiku-like miniatures: agile, mobile and eventful’ (Hugh Haughton). ‘John Birtwhistle is a marvellously versatile intellectual gadfly of a poet. No sooner do we think that we know his manner, his theme, than he is off elsewhere, teasing, amusing, throwing out possibilities like sweets strewn along a woodland path.’ (Michael Glover)

The poetry is distinguished by deep feeling conveyed with visual precision, careful phrasing and formal clarity. Peter Jay writes of ‘These lucid, witty, tender poems, full of felicitous surprises and unexpected turns of imagination’, whilst Imtiaz Dharker finds them ‘So rich in scope and style, with surprising shifts and echoes’.
John Birtwhistle was born in Scunthorpe in 1946. His poetry has been recognized by an Eric Gregory Award, an Arts Council bursary, Arts Council creative writing Fellowships, a Fellowship at the University of Southampton and a Poetry Book Society Recommendation. He has had three concert libretti set and performed: David Blake’s The Plumber’s Gift was staged by English National Opera and broadcast on Radio 3. For twelve years, he was a Lecturer in English at the University of York, teaching mainly seventeenth century and Romantic poetry. For five years, he was a literary contributor and eventually an Associate Editor of the British Medical Journal’s specialist quarterly BMJ Supportive & Palliative Care. Birtwhistle is married to a Consultant Anaesthetist and since 1992 he has lived in Sheffield with his family.

David Duff is Professor of Romanticism at Queen Mary University of London and founder-director of the London-Paris Romanticism Seminar. He is the author of Romance and Revolution: Shelley and the Politics of a Genre (1994) and Romanticism and the Uses of Genre (OUP, 2009), which won the ESSE Book Award for Literatures in the English Language. His edited books include Modern Genre Theory (2000), Scotland, Ireland, and the Romantic Aesthetic (2007, with Catherine Jones), and the forthcoming Oxford Anthology of Romanticism. He is currently researching the literary history of the prospectus.