The latest broadcast of In Our Time takes on the metaphysical poets. Why they are called metaphysical is explained in the program, but since it involves a use of the word that is no longer common and implies more of a critique on the group rather than something easily identifiable or a name they had chosen themselves, that label sort of fades - at least that is what it does for me.
Moreover, one can hardly speak of a group. Certainly Melvyn Bragg and his guests hardly address a group. Mainly they speak of John Donne. The other poets that are discussed, are said to either not fit at all, or not fit with all of their work within the metaphysical poets. And so, in many ways, this is a program about Donne and how he fits, both with contemporaries and overall in English literature. With critics such as Samuel Johnson and contemporaries such as Shakespeare, one would almost pity Donne. And not expect too much of his work.
I was pleasantly surprised however, with the readings of Donne's poems on the program and found this work to be witty, accessible, gentle and sounding very modern. I would not have guessed for a moment, Donne was a contemporary of Shakespeare. It makes the poets very sympathetic and the discussion very engaging. Thus, In Our Time, was once again a top top shelve show.
More In Our Time:
The Arab Conquests,
BBC's In Our Time (podcast review),
General review of In Our Time,
Library of Nineveh,
The Brain: A History.