The Music of Time

In this new work of literary history, Professor John Burnside reveals how poets engaged with the most important issues and events of the 20th century, helping us make sense of our world by transforming what the Russian poet Osip Mandelstam called the “noise of time” into a kind of music.

Bringing together poets from times and places as diverse as Tsarist Russia, 1960s Harlem, and Ireland at the height of the Troubles, Professor Burnside reveals how poetry responded to the dramatic events of the past century while shaping our impressions of them. He takes readers from the trenches of World War I to a prison cell in Nazi Germany, and from Rilke’s grave in the Swiss Alps to Dylan Thomas’s Welsh seaside. His narrative is woven through with insights into the poet’s creative process as well as lyrical and thought-provoking digressions on topics ranging from marriage to the Kennedy assassination.

Written by one of our leading poets, The Music of Time is a unique history of 20th century poetry, blending personal meditations with new insights into a broad range of poets who distilled the essence of the moment, gave voice to our griefs and joys, and gave shape to our collective memory.