Dance of Being: The Poetry of Peter Redgrove

  • Neil Roberts


A few years ago Peter Redgrove published an article called ‘Why the Bomb is Real but not True’,1 in which he argued that nuclear weapons and the ethics of modern warfare are made possible by a model of scientific thought which holds as an axiom that the thinker’s subjectivity must be rigorously excluded. He calls this a ‘monstrous cosmic detachment … which is held to describe the ground of our universe, and modern behaviour,’2 and points out that an alternative model has been proposed, based on the so-called ‘holographic paradigm’, of a world the whole of which (including our own subjectivities) is ‘enfolded’ like the parts of a holographic image into each region. The word ‘enfolded’ comes from the physicist David Bohm’s book Wholeness and the Implicate Order; Redgrove cites Bohm’s hypothesis of an ‘implicate order [in which] one may say that everything is folded into everything’ in contrast to ‘the explicate order now dominant in physics in which things are unfolded in the sense that each thing lies only in its own particular region of space (and time) and outside the regions belonging to other things.’3


Scientific Thought Holographic Image Natural Imagery Notate Dance Early Poem 
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  1. 1.
    P. Redgrove, ‘Why the Bomb is Real but not True’, in David Martin and Peter Mullen (eds), Unholy Warfare (Oxford: Blackwell, 1983), pp. 141–6.Google Scholar
  2. See also N. Roberts, ‘Peter Redgrove: The Science of the Subjective’, Poetry Review, Vol. 77, No. 2, 1987, pp. 4–10 (an extract from an interview with Redgrove conducted in October 1986).Google Scholar
  3. 3.
    D. Bohm, Wholeness and the Implicate Order (London: Routledge, 1980), p. 177, quoted in Unholy Warfare, p. 144.Google Scholar
  4. 4.
    P. Redgrove, The Apple-Broadcast and Other New Poems (London: Routledge, 1981), pp. 69–70; also in Poems 1954–1987 (Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1989).Google Scholar
  5. 5.
    P. Redgrove, ‘Minerals of Cornwall, Stones of Cornwall’, in Dr Faust’s Sea-Spiral Spirit and Other Poems (London: Routledge, 1972), p. 3; also in Poems 1954–1987, op. cit. Compare Bohm: ‘The subject-verb-object structure of language, along with its world-view, tends to impose itself very strongly in our speech, even in those cases, in which some attention would reveal its evident inappropriateness … Thus, instead of saying, “An observer looks at an object”, we can more appropriately say, “Observation is going on, in an undivided movement involving those abstractions customarily called ‘the human being’ and ‘the object he is looking at’.” (Bohm, op. cit., p. 29.) ‘Minerals of Cornwall’ was written several years before even the original publication of this passage in 1976. Redgrove, I should say, never lapses into the Pseuds’ cornerish prosiness of Bohm’s discursive style here.Google Scholar
  6. 6.
    R. Jakobson, ‘Linguistics and poetics’, in D. Lodge (ed.). Modern Criticism and Theory (London: Longman, 1988), p. 53.Google Scholar
  7. 8.
    C. Raine, ‘Arsehole’, in Rich (London: Faber, 1984), p. 26.Google Scholar
  8. 9.
    V. Shklovsky, ‘Art as Technique’, in L.T. Lemon and M.J. Reis (eds), Russian Formalist Criticism: Four Essays (Lincoln, Nebraska: Bison Books, 1965).Google Scholar
  9. 11.
    P. Redgrove, ‘The Quiet Woman of Chancery Lane’, in The Man Named East and Other New Poems (London: Routledge, 1985), p. 11; also in Poems 1954–1987.Google Scholar
  10. 13.
    P. Redgrove, ‘Mr Waterman’, in The Nature of Cold Weather and Other Poems (London: Routledge, 1961), p. 54; also in Poems 1954–1987, op. cit.Google Scholar
  11. 14.
    P. Redgrove, ‘Old House’, in The Collector and Other Poems (London: Routledge, 1959), p. 11; also in Poems 1954–1987, op. cit.Google Scholar
  12. 15.
    P. Redgrove, ‘The Case’, in The Force and Other Poems (London: Routledge, 1966), p. 80; also in Poems 1954–1987, op. cit.Google Scholar
  13. 16.
    P. Shuttle and P. Redgrove, The Wise Wound: Eve’s Curse and Every-woman (New York: Marek, 1978), p. 26.Google Scholar
  14. 18.
    P. Redgrove, The Black Goddess and the Sixth Sense (London: Bloomsbury, 1987), p. xi.Google Scholar
  15. 19.
    P. Redgrove, ‘Without Eyes’, in The Collector and Other Poems (London: Routledge, 1959), p. 52; also in Poems 1954–1987, op. cit.Google Scholar
  16. 23.
    C. Baudelaire, ‘Un Fantôme’, in E. Starkie (ed.), Les Fleurs du Mal (Oxford: Blackwell, 1962), p. 37.Google Scholar
  17. 24.
    E. Neumann, The Great Mother, an Analysis of the Archetype, translated by R. Mannheim (London: Routledge, 1953), p. 28.Google Scholar
  18. 25.
    Simone de Beauvoir, ‘Introduction’ to The Second Sex (1949, reprinted in E. Marks and I. de Courtivron (eds), New French Feminisms, an Anthology, Amherst: University of Massachusetts, 1980), p. 44.Google Scholar
  19. 26.
    T. Hughes, ‘Crow’s Undersong’, in Crow, from the Life and Songs of the Crow, 2nd edn (London: Faber, 1972), p. 56.Google Scholar
  20. In T. Gifford and N. Roberts, Ted Hughes: A Critical Study (London: Faber, 1981) I praised this poem unreservedly. I do not withdraw that praise, but the reading prompted by the Redgrove comparison seems to me completer and less naive.Google Scholar

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© The Editorial Board, Lumiere (Co-operative) Press Ltd 1997

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  • Neil Roberts

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