I read quite a lot of poetry over the past two days. First up was John Ashbery’s translation of Rimbaud’s Illuminations. Carcanet, bless them, have had the great idea of publishing the English translation alongside the French original, and I have been discovering words such as sourdre (to well up). Reading the original and the translation also obliges me to concentrate, I am sure, far more on Rimbaud’s originality than would otherwise be the case. However, this sort of exercise also brings out the pedant in me. I showed a (Francophone) niece-in-law, a trained literary translator, some of my quibbles. She firmly and thoroughly put me in my place, pointing out how, where Ashbery had differed from the original, it was because he was trying to maintain a similar rhythm. But even she had to agree with me that ‘the girl with the orange lip’ is probably not quite what Rimbaud intended when he wrote ‘la fille à levre d’orange‘! Then, by chance in a Redu bookshop, I came across Adam Foulds’s The Broken Word, a brilliant verse narrative about colonial Britain’s atrocities against the Kikuyu during the so-called ‘Mau-Mau’ uprising. Foulds taught me briefly at a Guardian Masterclass and so I know just how careful and precise he is with vocabulary. The Broken Word is brilliantly scintillating – there are no better words to describe this extraordinary debut, now of course complemented by the Man Booker-shortlisted The Quickening Maze.