Quick, Said the Bird by Richard Swigg (PhD 1966)

Iowa City, IA—When William Carlos Williams said, 'It’s all in / the sound' when T. S. Eliot hailed the invigorating force of the 'auditory imagination' or when Marianne Moore applauded 'the clatter and true sound' of Williams’ verse, each poet invoked the dimension that bound them together.

In Quick, Said the Bird, Richard Swigg makes the case for acoustics as the basis of the linkages, kinships, and inter-illuminations of a major twentieth-century literary relationship.

Outsiders in their home terrain—who nevertheless continued to reach back to their own American vocal identities—Williams, Eliot, and Moore embody a unique lineage that can be traced from their first significant works (1909 to 1918) to the 1960s.

In reconstructing the auditory dimension in the work of the three poets, Quick, Said the Bird does not neglect the visual text.

Whether in the form of Moore’s quirky patternings, Eliot’s expandable verse-frames, or Williams’ springy stanzas, the printed shape on the page is here brought together with the spoken word in vital interplay: the eye-read text cut against by sequential utterance in a restoration of the poetry’s full effect.

By seeing and hearing the verse at the same moment—together with reading side-by-side discussions of the quarrels, friendships, mutual borrowings, and shared energies of Williams, Eliot, and Moore—the reader gains a remarkable new understanding of their individual achievements.


'One feels better for having read Richard Swigg’s Quick, Said the Bird. Swigg links Eliot to his alleged opposite, Williams, and then links them both to Moore—a valuable endeavour. There is a genial, learned, sensitive, emotionally vital quality to Swigg’s commentary. This is a beautifully written, highly intelligent study that will stay with the reader for some time.'Steven Gould Axelrod, co-editor, The New Anthology of American Poetry, volume 2, Modernisms, 1900–1950

Richard Swigg was formerly Senior Lecturer in the Department of English at Keele University. He is author of Lawrence, Hardy and American Literature, Charles Tomlinson and the Objective Tradition, and Look with the Ears: Charles Tomlinson’s Poetry of Sound. He has collected, edited, and published the collected recordings of William Carlos Williams, Charles Tomlinson, Basil Bunting, and Hugh MacDiarmid. PennSound published his collection of Williams recordings online in 2007 and his collection of George Oppen recordings in 2009.

Quick, Said the Bird is available for sale at bookstores or directly from the University of Iowa Press by phone at (800) 621-2736 (USA/Canada) or online at www.uiowapress.org. Customers in the United Kingdom, Europe, the Middle East, or Africa may order from the Eurospan Group online at www.eurospangroup.com/bookstore.