poetry

THE MERSEY SOUND       PENGUIN

The Mersey Sound‘I wanted your soft verges, But you gave me the hard shoulder’. Since its first publication in 1967 as Penguin Modern Poets no. 10, The Mersey Sound has become an icon of British poetry. Gathering the early, enormously influential work of Roger McGough, Brian Patten and Adrian Henri (The Liverpool Poets), it went on to sell over half a million copies and to become the bestselling poetry anthology of all time. McGough is one of the UK’s most celebrated and distinctive poets, author of more than fifty books and numerous scripts, including the script for the Beatles’ film Yellow Submarine. The much missed Adrian Henri, 1932-2000, was an artist, poet, teacher, rock and roll performer, playwright and librettist. His numerous publications include Wish You Were Here and Not Fade Away. Brian Patten is one of the most accessible and popular poets working today and his collections include Grinning Jack (Selected Poems), Love Poems, Storm Damage and Armada. In 2002, he won The Cholmondeley Award for services to poetry. Together with McGough and Henri, he was honoured with The Freedom of the City of Liverpool. This groundbreaking collection has now been restored for its 50th year to its original selection as it first appeared, with tales of Northern romance, petrol-pump attendants and bus conductors - poems that first spoke so strongly to the real lives behind Beatlemania and the ‘Summer of Love’: energetic, raw and a true record of its era. ‘People pretended that the world was coming to an end at lunchtime. It still hasn’t. Although in a way it has.’

GOBLIN MARKET - CHRISTINA ROSSETTI       PENGUIN LITTLE BLACK CLASSICS

Goblin MarketMorning and evening, Maids heard the goblins cry: ‘Come buy our orchard fruits, Come buy, come buy’. Christina Rossetti’s mysterious and sensual narrative poem, Goblin Market, was written in 1859 and appeared in her first volume of poetry, illustrated by her brother, the Pre-Raphaelite artist Dante Gabriel Rossetti. In the poem, two sisters, Lizzie and Laura, are tempted by the magical and dangerous fruit the enticing goblins they hear from their house. Lizzie instinctively fears and resists them, but Laura and decides to go out and see what’s happening. Lizzie warns her not to, but Laura is too curious. The goblin men offer her their fruit and Laura thinks it looks tasty but she doesn’t have any money. The goblins offer to take a piece of her golden hair instead. After eating all that goblin fruit, Laura starts to waste away. Lizzie gets worried and decides to go down to the market to see what’s what. The goblin men try to tempt her the way they tempted Laura, but Lizzie stands firm. They try to stuff fruit in her mouth, but Lizzie runs back to their house all covered in goblin fruit juice. Laura kisses the juice off her sister’s cheeks and is miraculously, but painfully, healed. Years later, they describe their experience in the goblin market to their own children as a cautionary tale about the importance of sisterly love, though the tale can be seen as an allegory expressiing of Rossetti’s feminist and homosexual politics. In addition to its clear allusions to Adam and Eve, forbidden fruit, and temptation, there is much in the poem that seems overtly sexual, reflecting Victorian social mores. Goblin Market is a masterpiece and is published in this new edition together with 19 other poems by Christina Rossetti as one of 80 chic Little Black Classics issued to celebrate Penguin’s 80th Anniversary. The series features short stories, poetry, essays and dramas from publishing’s most famous series, Penguin Classics. At 64 pages and 80p each, the Little Black Classics are beautifully designed, complete mini books with rich and varied texts that reach out across continents, eras and genres, taking us from a balloon ride over Victorian London to a garden of cherry blossom trees in Japan, from Tierra del Fuego to 16th-century California and the Russian steppe. Other authors include Boccacio, Keats, Thomas Hardy, Jane Austen, Mozart, Hans Christian Andersen, Charles Dickens, Turgenev, Karl Marx, Sophocles, Joseph Conrad, Chekhov and Oscar Wilde.

POETRY BY HEART    VIKING ISBN-9780241185544

Poetry by HeartNot everyone agreed with all the proposals of former Education Secretary Michael Gove, but his sponsorship of a national ‘poetry by heart’ competition and his insistence that poetry be put at the heart of the curriculum met with widespread approval. Now in its third year, the contest is open to pupils in England in from years 10 and above. Entrants are obliged to learn two pieces for the contest – three if they reach the national final – and the intention is that they will read many more as they select from the Poetry by Heart website. This hardback collection of more than 200 poems, edited by Julie Blake, Mike Dixon, Andrew Motion and Jean Sprackland, has many favourites (including works by Wordsworth, Keats and Kipling) as well as enjoyable surprises by less well known writers such as Kamau Brathwaite, the Kurdish-born Choman Hardi and Daljit Nagra. Authors range from Chaucer to Emily Dickinson, from Emily Bronte to Benjamin Zephaniah, and have been specially chosen for their suitability for learning and reciting. Not ‘booming’ poems necessarily - though there are a few of those - but poems that delight the ear as much as they do the eye. In a ground-breaking feature, more than a hundred poems in the book are accompanied by QR codes which allow the reader to access readings of the poems on their mobile phone - many of them specially recorded by the poets themselves. Each poem has a full-page note on the work and on the poet, making Poetry by Heart an invaluable resource for anyone who wants to deepen their understanding of the work. Above all, this is an anthology to treasure, celebrating the age-old pleasure of reciting poems and of hearing them spoken aloud. Former poet Laureate Andrew Motion explains that the selection features ‘story poems, love poems, frightening poems, tender poems, political poems, comical poems, poems that show the world as it is, and poems that look through the world into infinite space... they dramatise experiences that surprise us into a new apprehension of ourselves and our capacity for imagining, thinking and marvelling.’

ON THE NATURE OF POETRY - KENNETH VERITY     SHEPHEARD-WALWYN

On the Nature of PoetryAlmost a library in one volume, this unusual book, subtitled ‘An Appraisal and Investigation of the Art Which for 4000 Years Has Distilled the Spoken Thoughts of Mankind’, examines the mysterious phenomenon of poetry. With quotations from over two hundred poets from both East and West, the book explains the underlying power of this art form and how its effect is exerted over human hearts and understanding. Kenneth Verity’s English Literature tutor engendered in him a deep attraction to the works of Shakespeare and a sustained interest in the history of poetry. He has travelled widely in the Far East, studying Buddhism with masters from Tibet, Thailand and Korea, and is himself the author of three books of sonnets (praised by Kingsley Amis) as well as two books of haiku. He writes, ‘The intention of this book is to examine and analyse the essential nature of the phenomenon we call poetry; to seek an understanding of the power this art form exerts over mind and heart; to comprehend its potency; and to explain its perennial ability to command the respect of mankind’. Since the Greeks at least, poetry has been accorded pre-eminence in the arts, its aesthetic supremacy and mystery making it the foremost form of expression when human beings need to say something important. In poetry, the author suggests, the eternal intersects the everyday. He shows how poetry has provided a vehicle for inspiration and fresh ways of thinking and interpreting the perennial questions of the human race. His book makes clear that poetry ‘works’ because it acknowledges the universality of human psychology, and because it unites emotion with reason and tempers imagination with understanding. Kenneth Verity is immensely well-read and his love of poetry is eloquently conveyed in this enjoyable and highly readable book, taking the reader on a chronological journey from the Epic of Gilgamesh to T. S. Eliot and Ted Hughes.

GIACOMO LEOPARDI - CANTI     PENGUIN CLASSICS ISBN: 9780141193878

The poet, essayist, philosopher and philologist Giacomo Leopardi was born into a noble family in 1798 in the sleepy central Italian town of Recanati. He was educated by tutors for the priesthood and was a gifted child who read extensively, mastering ancient and modern languages, translating from the classics and composing his own works. Breaking free of family restraints, he later lived in Bologna, Florence and Naples, where he died aged only 39. A contemporary of Baudelaire and Hölderlin, Leopardi remains relatively unknown to English-speaking audiences even though he was responsible for one of the most influential poetic works of the nineteenth century. He described his Canti as a ‘reliquary’ for his ideas, feelings and deepest preoccupations. Leopardi seeks to recreate man’s ancient oneness with the world: ‘Nature, Queen and Goddess, ordained a life that wasn’t suffering and guilt, but free and pure in the forests’. This extraordinary work encompasses drastic shifts in tone and material, and includes early personal elegies and idylls; radical public poems on history and politics; philosophical satires; his great, dark, despairing odes such as ‘To Silvia’; and later masterworks such as ‘The Setting of the Moon’. Infused with classical allusion and nostalgia, yet disarmingly modern in their spare, meditative style and their sense of alienation and scepticism, the Canti has influenced two centuries of Western lyric poetry, inspiring thinkers and writers from Schopenhauer and Nietzsche to Beckett and Lowell. This excellent new translation by Jonathan Galassi sensitively responds to the musicality of the Canti, while the introduction discusses the paradoxes of Leopardi’s life and work. This new edition of Leopardi’s masterpiece should bring the greatest Italian poet since Dante to a much wider audience. ‘A lucid and revelatory new translation’ - New Yorker.

T.S. ELIOT READS T.S. ELIOT    REGIS RECORDS FRC6139

T.S. ELIOT READS T.S. ELIOTThe American-born poet, playwright and critic Thomas Stearns Eliot was one of the most important literary figures of the twentieth century. The poem that made his name, The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock, is a masterpiece of the modernist movement, and was followed by some of the best-known poems in the English language, including The Waste Land, The Hollow Men, Ash Wednesday, and Four Quartets. Eliot was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1948 and achieved unexpected posthumous popular fame when ‘Old Possum’s Book of Practical Cats’ inspired the long-running musical, Cats. On this indispensable CD, Eliot reads the ‘Old Possum’ poems with considerable relish and a hint of mischief in his very English voice. The CD also features re-mastered recordings from 1955 and 1957 of him powerfully reading ‘The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock’, ‘Ash Wednesday’ and ‘Portrait Of A Lady’. ‘The voice, precise and BETJEMAN READS BETJEMANangular, is tailor-made for these verses. The record contains some of the most famous poems of the twentieth century and the poet and his poems in combination supply further reason for Mr. Eliot’s high standing in contemporary letters.’ - The New York Times. Regis Records has also released BETJEMAN READS BETJEMAN (FRC6138) on which Sir John Betjeman introduces and reads some of his most famous poems, including ‘A Subaltern’s Love Song’, ‘How To Get On In Society’, ‘Business Women’ and ‘The Licorice Fields At Pontefract’. Also included are bonus tracks of the unmistakable voice of Dylan Thomas reading three Betjeman poems - ‘Senex’, ‘On A Portrait Of A Deaf Man’ and ‘To My Son Aged Eight’. These are just two of the excellent, low-priced re-issues available from Regis Records, including a wide range of vintage classical music recordings.

POEMS FOR LIFE - LAURA BARBER     PENGUIN ISBN 9780140424706

Penguin's Poems for LifeShelley claimed that poets are the unacknowledged legislators of the world and the history of English poetry stretches from the middle of the 7th century to the present day. Over this period, poets have written some of the world’s most enduring poems. Taking its inspiration from Shakespeare’s idea of the ‘seven ages’ of a human life, this cleverly chosen selection shows how a good poem can have the curious effect of describing your state of mind or heart so accurately that it seems instantly recognisable and true. Ranging for Chaucer to Carol Ann Duffy, via Shakespeare, Keats and Lemn Sissay, compiler Laura Barber has undertaken the task of selecting the perfect poems to reflect the various stages of life, taking you from birth and childhood to first love, marriage, parenthood, growing old, dying and mourning. Many old favourites, such as Kipling's ‘If...’ and Keats’s ‘To Autumn’ are included, as well as a number of less well known contemporary works. This is a book that will appeal to almost everyone, with words to soothe a bruised heart, patch a broken friendship, lull a baby to sleep, seduce the hesitant or console the bereaved. ‘Poetry is thoughts that breathe, and words that burn’ - Thomas Gray.

POEMS OF JOHN MILTON - CLAIRE TOMALIN   PENGUIN CLASSICS

Poems of John MiltonPoet, polemicist and civil servant for the Commonwealth of England, John Milton is most famous today for his epic poem Paradise Lost and his treatise condemning censorship, Areopagitica. Considered by many to be the greatest English poet, his work was attacked by Ezra Pound and T. S. Eliot, who was alienated by Milton’s radical politics, heretical religious views and complicated Latinate verse. Milton’s reputation nevertheless remains as strong as ever today. His poetry and personality have also been a huge influence on subsequent generations - particularly William Wordsworth and others of the Romantic movement. George Eliot and Thomas Hardy were also greatly inspired by Milton’s poetry and biography. He was born in London in 1608, and studied at the University of Cambridge. He originally planned to become a clergyman, but abandoned those ambitions to become a poet. By 1660, he was completely blind but continued to write, finishing Paradise Lost in 1667, and Paradise Regained in 1671. He died in 1674. John Milton was a master of almost every type of verse, from the classical to the religious and from the lyrical to the epic. Selected and introduced by the acclaimed biographer Claire Tomalin, this beautifully produced book of his poetry marks the 400th anniversary of Milton’s birth. Claire Tomalin introduces each poem and offers notes explaining the classical, mythical, political and biblical allusions with which the poems are crammed. As she writes in her introduction: ‘What makes Milton difficult also makes him fascinating… Once you can follow the allusions, the poems open up.’ This selection explores the great poet’s verse against the arc of his dedicated and turbulent life, making it the perfect introduction to one of the most significant writers and thinkers of all time. ‘Death is the golden key that opens the palace of eternity’ - Milton.

THIRST – MARY OLIVER    BLOODAXE ISBN 1852247762

ThirstBorn in 1935 in Maple Heights, Ohio, Mary Oliver is one of America’s best-loved and most highly awarded poets. As a teenager, she lived briefly in the home of the deceased Edna St. Vincent Millay, where she helped Millay’s sister Norma organize the papers the famous poet left behind. She attended both the Ohio State University and Vassar College in the mid-1950s before settling in resided in Provincetown, Massachusetts, where she has lived for more than forty years. Her luminous poetry celebrates nature and beauty, love and the spirit, silence and wonder, extending the visionary American tradition of Whitman, Emerson, Frost and Emily Dickinson. The winner of the Pulitzer Prize and the National Book Award, she has lived for many years on Cape Cod, her extraordinary poetry nourished by her intimate knowledge and minute daily observation of the New England coast, a Thoreauvian landscape of woods and ponds, birds and animals, plants and trees. This latest collection introduces two new directions in her work. Grappling with grief at the death of her beloved partner of over 40 years (the artist Molly Malone Cook), she strives to experience sorrow as a path to spiritual progress, grief as part of loving and not its end. And in Thirst Mary Oliver chronicles for the first time her discovery of faith, without abandoning the love of the physical world that has been a hallmark of her work for four decades. In three of the book’s stunning long poems, she explores the dimensions and tests the parameters of religious doctrine. These are intense, life-enhancing and redemptive poems that yearn for the sublime and the ‘life after the earth-life’. ‘A fierce, uncompromising lyricist, a loyalist of the marshes. Hers is a voice we desperately need’ - Women’s Review of Books.

WINDRUSH SONGS – JAMES BERRY       BLOODAXE ISBN 1852247703

Windrush SongsJames Berry was born and brought up in a tiny seaside village in Jamaica. He learnt to read before he was four years old, mostly from the Bible, which he often read aloud to his mother’s friends. When he was 17, he went to work in America then returned to Jamaica before making his way to Britain in 1948. He came on the next ship after the Windrush and shared many of the experiences that prompted this migration in search of change and a better life. He worked for British Telecom and became one of the first black writers in Britain to achieve wider recognition, winning the National Poetry Competition in 1981. Numerous books include two anthologies of Caribbean poetry and six collections of his own work as well as several books for children. His literary prizes include the Smarties Prize (1987), the Signal Poetry Award (1989) and a Cholmondeley Award (1991), and he was awarded the OBE in 1990. The poems in this latest book give voice to the people who came on those first ships from the Caribbean, whose journeys held strange echoes of earlier sea voyages which had brought ancestors from Africa to the slave plantations. James Berry explores the different reasons his fellow travellers had for leaving the Caribbean when they rushed to get on the boat, and the poems also look back on slavery and individual experiences of hardship and trying to make a living: ‘Mi one milkin cow just die! / Gone, gone – and leave me / Like hurricane disaster!’ Windrush Songs ranges from lyrical pictures of Caribbean country life to poems in the voices of travellers with desires, fears, anxieties, hopes and ambitions. The book is published to mark the 200th anniversary of the abolition of slavery as well as James Berry’s 70th birthday year.

THE MERSEY SOUND   PENGUIN CLASSIC ISBN 9780141189260

Mersey SoundThe influential ‘Liverpool Poets’ were involved in the vibrant 1960s scene in that city during a time when the city was called ‘the centre of the consciousness of the human universe’ by the American beat poet, Allen Ginsberg. The work of poets such as Roger McGough, Brian Patten and Adrian Henri was characterised by its directness of expression, simplicity of language, suitability for live performance, humour and concern for contemporary subjects and references. The poets generally came from a working class background and went to art college rather than university. There was a strong allegiance with pop music, and the values and effectiveness of that in reaching out to a wide audience informed the poetry, so readings often took place in a pub or club environment. The Mersey Sound anthology was published in 1967 as one of Penguin’s Modern Poets series and became an outstanding success, selling over 500,000 copies to become one of the best selling ever poetry anthologies. The poems by Henri, McGough and Patten are accessible, unpretentious, witty and sometimes melancholy. The Mersey Sound offered, for the first time, an accessible alternative to traditional poetry that echoed the mood of the time. This remarkable book has remained in print ever since, bringing the three poets such acclaim and influence that in 2002 they were given the Freedom of the City of Liverpool. To celebrate the fortieth anniversary of The Mersey Sound, Penguin has re-published this groundbreaking collection by the famous trio who revolutionised poetry with their innovative form and style. A true classic.

CICADA - TATIANA VOLTSKAIA       BLOODAXE ISBN 1852247045

The outstanding young Russian poet Tatiana Voltskaia (born in 1960) was educated at the Krupskaya Institute of Culture and lives in St. Petersburg. She has been a radio journalist since 1987 and a correspondent for Radio Svobody (Radio Liberty) since 2000. Her first programmes were features on modern Russian philosophers and writers. She became recognised as a leading poet and cultural commentator following the appearance of her first collection Two Bloods in 1989 and published her fifth collection, Cicada, in 2002. Voltskaia began to write poetry seriously during the last decade of the USSR, reacting to the profound and disturbing changes of that time to emerge as one of the leading poets of the new Russia. Her subjects are the perennial Russian ones of love and death, and her work continues Brodsky’s preoccupation with space and time as the vectors of our lives, echoing his vision of Russia as a crumbling empire. At the centre of her lyrical poetry there is a woman trying to escape from her condition of isolation, seeking communication through dialogue, conversations, reflections, shadows, echoes, letters and sex. Many of her poems are set in her native city of St Petersburg, where water meets stone, reflections meet their images, and what is real is confronted at every turn by illusion. It is an ‘artificial’ city, built without native or vernacular architecture or culture: everything was borrowed and imitated to create a window on to the West, and this eclectic cultural mix where East meets West finds its reflection in Voltskaia’s work. Her concern with the Western tradition of literature in Russian poetry places her firmly in the St Petersburg tradition of Pushkin, Blok, Akhmatova, Mandelstam, Brodsky and Kushner, characterised by strict verse form, intellectual themes including those from classical literature and myth, coupled with an intimate address to the reader. As well as a selection of elegant poems (presented here both in Russian and in excellent translations by Emily Lygo, who also provides the introduction) this book includes enlightening essays on Russian history, Paris, the appeal of Gothic architecture and the importance of poetry. Highly recommended.

CONCENTRIC CIRCLES - YANG LIAN     BLOODAXE ISBN 1852247037

Yang Lian was born in Switzerland in 1955 and grew up in Beijing. He began writing when he was sent to the countryside in the 1970s, and on his return became one of the young ‘underground’ Chinese poets who published the literary magazine Jintian. His influential poetry became well known inside and outside China in the 1980s, when his poem ‘Norlang’ was criticised by the government. Yang Lian visited Australia and New Zealand in 1988 and became a Chinese poet in exile after the Tiananmen Square massacre, continuing to write and speak as a highly individual voice in world literature, politics and culture. He has been translated into more than twenty languages and his work has been awarded several international prizes. Before and since his enforced exile, he has been one of the most innovative and influential poets in China. He considers that Concentric Circles to be ‘the most important piece since I came out from China’. Not a political work, the poems instead focus on ‘deep reality’ and the nature of how humans understand that reality through the medium of language. The book, like the sections of which it is comprised, uses a kind of collage, where many small fragments, each complete in itself, are aligned together in a series of patterns to form a grander mosaic: from line to line, poem to poem, cycle to cycle, in ever-widening concentric structures. ‘Yang Lian is one of the great world poets of our era’ - Edinburgh Review.

ALL THE POEMS - MURIEL SPARK   CARCANET ISBN 185754773X

ALL THE POEMS - MURIEL SPARKMuriel Spark was born in Edinburgh in 1918 and lived in Africa for several years before returning to England. She edited Poetry Review from 1947 to 1949 and published her first volume of poems, The Fanfarlo, in 1952, before making her home in Italy and becoming a highly-acclaimed novelist (Memento Mori, The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie, The Girls of Slender Means). This invaluable book brings together a wide range of her poetry, including villanelles, ballads and epigrams, as well as freer forms, all marked by Spark’s brilliantly precise observation and command of her medium. The poems are witty, idiosyncratic and haunting, transforming the familiar into glittering moments of strangeness, revealing the dark music beneath the mundane. The edge of danger and wry insights in Dame Muriel’s poems are equally unforgettable. She was made Commandeur des Arts et des Lettres (France) in 1996 and awarded her DBE in 1993.

PASSIONFOOD - 100 LOVE POEMS     BLOODAXE ISBN 1852247274

This very enjoyable new anthology of classic and contemporary love poems, edited by Neil Astley, is a selection by a wide range of poets, from Catullus, Sappho and Shakespeare (‘So are you to my thoughts as food to life’) through to to modern poets such as Carol Ann Duffy, James Fenton and Seamus Heaney (‘The Skunk’). Unlike other anthologies of this kind, the book excludes poems about falling out of love, breakup or heartbreak. The feast starts with poems about attraction and desire, followed by the ‘main course’ and ‘dessert’, covering the excitement of love, with many passionate poems about being and staying in love. Finally comes ‘fruit’, celebrating closeness, trust and mutual understanding. Classics by writers such as John Keats (‘Bright Star...’), Christina Rosetti, John Donne and W B Yeats are given fresh resonance beside works by lesser known poets such as Kim Addonizio, Audre Lorde and Grace Nichols. Neil Astley is Editor of Bloodaxe Books, which he founded in 1978, and has produced several anthologies, including Staying Alive: real poems for unreal times and its sequel Being Alive. His eclectic taste and occasional penchant for sauciness make him the ideal observer of this endlessly fascinating preoccupation. Passionfood is the perfect companion volume for Neil Astley’s PLEASED TO SEE ME (Bloodaxe ISBN 1852246146). Taking its title from Mae West’s famous wisecrack - ‘Is that a gun in your pocket, or are you just pleased to see me?’ - this anthology contains ‘69 very sexy poems’ with boldly playful and seriously sensual treatments of everything you ever wanted to know about sex but never thought to find in a poem. Neil Astley has selected a spicy selection of X-rated contemporary poems for an unashamedly saucy celebration of fleshly pleasures. The poets appearing here in frankly sexy form include E E Cummings, Seamus Heaney, Craig Raine, D H Lawrence, Thom Gunn and Carol Ann Duffy.

BEING ALIVE - NEIL ASTLEY       BLOODAXE ISBN 1852246758

Being Alive is editor Neil Astley’s sequel to his best-selling Staying Alive collection, which became Britain’s most popular poetry book. It introduced thousands of readers to contemporary poetry with an international anthology of poems of personal force, emotional power, intellectual edge and playful wit. This equally lively new volume features an even wider selection of vivid, diverse contemporary poetry from around the world, with poems that reflect upon love and loss, fear and longing, hurt and wonder. The book takes you on a journey through ten states, such as ‘Exploring the World’, ‘Family’, ‘Love Life’, ‘Men and Women’, ‘Being and Loss’, ‘Daily Round’, ‘Lives’ and ‘Mad World’. The 500 poems are wonderfully diverse and well-chosen, including works by most of the usual suspects (Larkin, Hughes, Plath, Heaney, Yeats) as well as many lesser-known names. This book should prove as great a success as its predecessor and deserves a place at every bedside. ‘Sitting alone in a room with these poems is to be assured that you are not alone, you are not crazy (or if you are, you’re not the only one who thinks this way!) I run home to this book to argue with it, find solace in it, to locate myself in the world again’ – Meryl Streep.

THE POETRY CURE - DARLING & FULLER  BLOODAXE ISBN 1852246901

This thoughtful, inspiring anthology, edited by Cynthia Fuller and the poet, playwright and novelist Julia Darling, features poems intended to help us deal with illness and experiences such as bereavement and ageing. Medical language can often be confusing and alienating, failing to empathise with our emotional predicament at difficult and frightening times. This carefully chosen anthology shows how poetry can provide metaphors and images to help us understand our feelings and communicate them to people around us. ‘Poetry should be a part of every modern hospital, not just as something to keep patients amused. It's a powerful force, which can help us through the darkest times’ - Julia Darling. ‘These poems magically supply the images and emotions that help us to accept our inexpressible vulnerability’ - Dr Miriam Stoppard. Sadly, Julia Darling, died on April 13, aged 48. She had been living with breast cancer for ten years used her writing as a means dealing with her illness. The optimism, honesty and humour revealed in her online diary have touched many readers and this book is a fitting tribute to her courage.

READING THE RIVER - ROBERT ADAMSON   BLOODAXE ISBN 1852246391

Robert Adamson was born in Sydney in 1943 and has lived on the Hawkesbury River in New South Wales for most of his life. His connection to river is both spiritual and emotional and he knows its moods intimately. Having spent much of his adolescence in boys’ homes and prisons he was introduced to books and dreams of becoming a writer. His subsequent sixteen poetry books and an exceptional autobiography (Inside Out), together with two books of autobiographical fiction, have won many awards. Reading the River praises nature in its sometimes furious beauty and celebrates existence as a mythological quest. The early poems trace Adamson’s journey through a difficult childhood, prison and exile in the city, the source of a hard-won scepticism undercutting the highly personal Romanticism and daring lyricism of his later work. Among the most starkly effective are ‘My granny’ and ‘My tenth birthday’, a poem describing the only night in his life his father slept beside him. ‘Robert Adamson is one of Australia’s national treasures’ – John Ashbery.

R.S. THOMAS - COLLECTED LATER POEMS  BLOODAXE ISBN 1852246480

R. S. Thomas was born in 1913 and became one of the most prolific and pre-eminent poets writing in the English language. His poems in this collection were written between 1988 and 2000 and are permeated by powerful, uncompromising images relating to time and history, the self, love, the machine, the Cross and prayer - covering all of his major themes. This is R.S. Thomas in a winter light, his fury concentrated on the inhumanity of man and modern technology, his gaze absorbed by the God he felt in Nature, but finding nourishment in ‘waste places’. At the same time he writes with resigned feeling and immense insight, as well as grim humour and playful irony, of isolation, ageing, marriage and ‘love's shining greenhouses’. For Thomas, ‘Poetry is that / which arrives at the intellect / by way of the heart.’ A Poetry Book Society Recommendation, The Collected Later Poems brings together the five volumes of work of R S Thomas' last years, containing the whole of Echoes Return Slow (1988), Counterpoint (1990), Mass for Hard Times (1992), No Truce with the Furies (1995), and the posthumously published Residues (2002). ‘A grant of poetry’, Guardian.

MODERN SCOTTISH WOMEN POETS   CANONGATE ISBN 184195294X

With the exception of pioneers such as Rachel Ann Taylor, Marion Angus, Violet Jacob and Helen Cruickshank, the most celebrated Scottish poets of the early 20th century were men. By the second half of the century it was a rather different story, as this ambitious and comprehensive anthology, edited and introduced by Dorothy McMillan and Michel Byrne, reveals. More than 200 poems are featured, including works by Naomi Mitchison, Carol Ann Duffy, Dilys Rose, Kathleen Jamie, Meg Bateman, Jackie Kay and Liz Lochhead. This is an invaluable and thoughtfully selected compilation that contains some of the finest poetry written in recent times. ‘This anthology is everything it should be: eclectic ambitious, vivacious, unexpected, engrossing. And in being all these things, it's further proof of the exceptional power and range of Scottish writing’ Andrew Motion, Poet Laureate.

THE HONEY GATHERERS - A BOOK OF LOVE POEMS  BLOODAXE ISBN: 1852243597

The title for this rewarding anthology of love poetry, edited by Cornish-born poet Maura Dooley, is taken from Michael Ondaatje's ‘The Cinnamon Peeler', included here together with 300 other poems exploring the passionate experience of love in all its bewildering variety. This is an ever-recurring theme for poets, and among the favourites in this volume are works by Andrew Marvell (To His Coy Mistress), Keats, Shelley, Wordsworth (She was a Phantom of delight), Thomas Hardy, W H Auden (Funeral Blues), Elizabeth Barrett Browning, W B Yeats (the haunting When You Are Old), John Donne, John Betjeman (In a Bath Teashop) and, of course, William Shakespeare. There are many less familiar poems too, including Dorothy Parker’s wry Love Song and D H Lawrence’s sensuous Gloire de Dijon, as well as contributions from the bible and Anonymous. Lyrics by Cole Porter and Bob Dylan translate remarkably well to the page, although it’s difficult not to hear music behind the words. Maura Dooley’s selections are cleverly chosen and arranged to provoke witty and revealing connections, making this a book that informs as well as delights.

 

[new classics]