The four volumes of John Clare’s poetry that were published during his tragic life were so brutally edited, and sometimes even wilfully censored for political reasons that his work invited mainly curiosity and condescension from the literary world. Now that readers have a chance to re-evaluate Clare’s poetry, the “peasant poet”, “illiterate”, “quaint” and “rustic” is emerging as a radical thinker and writer. John Lucas’s unique volume reveals a knowing and articulate poet writing as an essentially oral artist – out of a subtle tradition of song as much as of poetry. Lucas champions Clare’s art in a vital and fascinating book which tells of the collision between the cultural orthodoxy of print and the poet whose work was demeaned and damaged by the forces of the literary establishment.
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