Last week Rowan Williams contributed a preface to the Guardian’s little pamphlet of Auden poetry. Did anyone at any stage, read what he wrote? In particular, did anyone actually read the following two sentences?
The technical skill is always exceptional. You’d call it dazzling if it were not so all-pervading (if not unobtrusive, at least) apparently intrinsic to the poetic argument and energy.
I left in the first one because without it the second makes no sense at all; with it, you can at least see that he is talking about Auden’s technical accomplishment. But what is he saying about it? In particular, what might it possibly mean to say of anything that it is all-pervading (if not unobtrusive, at least)?
What makes me so angry about this is that Rowan is meant to be a poet himself. He is meant to care about proper words in proper order, even when phoning in something for a newspaper. A phrase like that would bring any real poet out in hay fever.
It is also fairly shaming that no one at the Guardian rang up and demanded that he rewrite it.