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The Marlowe Papers by Ros Barber – a Novel in Verse…

I came to this book reluctantly,ready to do  “homework” – as Ros Barber will be one of two poets mentoring on an Arvon course I’ll soon be attending. I was put off by its bulk, its dry cover, the “Dramatis Personae” – listing the characters I was about to meet – as I say – a reluctant reader

But by page five, when I read this:

The woman might be forty-five, or twelve./ A calculated innocence, a face/ so open blank, it seems revealing as/ it hides itself.

…………………………………………………I was starting to warm, but by page 16 I was sold:

‘He’s come to Cambridge, Thomas Watson.’


‘I swear. Staying with some old friend of his.

He’s come to see your Dido.’

Christmas week.

Nineteen years old, and my first play is born

on a student stage fusty with Latin jokes.

Act One starts in an hour, the snow is thick

across the quad, and crunches underfoot

as Knowles and I make for the buttery.

‘You can’t be sure.’

‘The rumour’s sound. He’ll come.

He’ll love it Kit.’

‘He’ll recognise those lines

where Dido dies. I robbed the pith from him.’

‘Be calm. He’ll take it as a compliment’.


published by Sceptre – it is beautifully written, easy to read, visual. Now at page 64, I am fighting with myself – whether to race through or ration…Yup I recommend !


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