BookTalk is a series of blog posts, where I discuss non-Tolkien books in concise and honest reviews. Read on dear reader …
Well, I’m not sure exactly how to write this review.
I was aware, before I ever purchased a copy of this book, that Williams’s writing was dense and difficult to comprehend on a first-time basis. That has been the case in this instance.
The book in question is divided into two poetry collections: Taliessin through Logres & The Region of the Summer Stars.
Both collections are a reworking of the Arthurian Grail legend, which Williams spent a long time researching and working on. The poetry in Taliessin through Logres is not an easy read. It is complex, confusing and dense. Thankfully, Dr Sørina Higgins provides for a fitting introduction (found online), giving an in-depth look into its composition and providing a much-needed outline to each of the 24 poems.
My copy of the book was the 2016 edition by Apocryphile Press. I’m not sure whether it was an oversight of mine or an error in the printing of the book, but at the end of the first section, there are some Notes related to Taliessin through Logres. However, the page references are all wrong and I found that the footnotes were marked incorrectly (it is also not made clear whether these notes were made by the author or the editor).
That being said, as per Higgins’s suggestion, one should re-read this collection of poems more than once, primarily to savour the auditory and sonorous effects of the words. And that is truly the case. There are many instances throughout Taliessin through Logres where the verses really emerge out of the shadowy depths they’ve been constructed in, to reach the reader’s heart and mind in their clarity and musicality.
The second part of the book contains 8 more Arthurian poems under the name of The Region of the Summer Stars. This was entirely a breath of fresh air, after having just emerged from a much-taxing read of the first collection. The poetry here is still dense, but a sense of narrative is instantaneously recognisable, and much of the confusion experienced by a first-time reader will dissipate once he/she ventures into this second part. I found the verses in Region to be much more comprehensible, beautifully constructed and thought-provoking.
What this second part of the book lacks is a solid introduction. True, Williams’ brief Preface is included — which helps to explain certain elements in this second collection — but it feels lacking and it’s a real shame that no other expository notes or material were included to help provide some background to these other poems (especially given the fact that there’s scarce further information on the internet about The Region of the Summer Stars).
That being said, I’m glad I’ve read through this book. I will certainly re-read it at some later stage, though not just yet …
If you’re new to Charles Williams (or to poetry in general), I would steer clear from this for the time being. Then again, there’s treasure buried in these verses — it’s just a chore to dig it out.
I hear there’s an edition of the book with notes and essays by C.S. Lewis, but try as I might to find it, it has proven to be a fruitless search …
Till next time.