This first anthology of ‘Apocalyptic’ or neo-romantic poetry since the nineteen-forties includes over 150 poets, many well known (Dylan Thomas, W.S. Graham), and others quite forgotten (Ernest Frost, Paul Potts). Over forty of the poets are women, of whom Edith Sitwell is among the most exuberant. Much of the contents has never previously been anthologised; many poems are reprinted for the first time since the 1940s. The poetry of the Second World War appears in a new context, as do early Tomlisnon and Hill. Here readers can enjoy an overview of the visionary-modernist British and Irish poetry of the mid-century, its antecedents and its aftermath. As a period style and as a body of work, Apocalyptic poetry will come as a revelation to most readers.
‘This powerful and endlessly mysterious collection of poems is a book of fables, of spells, of revised narratives, and of realigned songs, brightly lifted above our bodies by music that is as unpredictable as it is marvellous.’ – Ilya Kaminsky
Arrow is a debut volume extraordinary in ambition, range and achievement. At its centre is ‘Dear, beloved’, a more-than-elegy for her younger sister who died suddenly: in the two years she took to write the poem, much else came into play: ‘it was my hope to write the mood of elegy rather than an elegy proper,’ following the example of the great elegists including Milton, to whose Paradise Lost she listened during the period of composition, also hearing the strains of Brigit Pegeen Kelly’s Song, of Alice Oswald and Marie Howe. The poem becomes a kind of kingdom, ‘one that is at once evil, or blighted, and beautiful, not to mention everything in between’.
As well as elegy, Chakraborty composes invocations, verse essays, and the strange extended miracle of the title poem, in which ancient and modern history, memory and the lived moment, are held in a directed balance. It celebrates the natural forces of the world and the rapt experience of balance, form and – love. She declares a marked admiration for poems that ‘will write into being a world that already in some way exists’. This is what her poems achieve.
‘As Best We Can is a defining poetic moment of 2020.’ – Yorkshire Times
As Best We Can, Jeffrey Wainwright’s seventh collection, marks a change of key for the poet. After the elegiac tone of The Reasoner (2016), the poems and sequences included here settle for the poet’s present world. They listen to what dreams have to tell, and (with humour underwriting their concentration) they worry at the labour and release of creative work. As always in Wainwright, history – personal and political – is alive in the present. The rendering of simple elements in ‘The Window-Ledge’, without commentary, is among his most lucid and radical poems. By effacing the ‘I’ he shares experience most fully with the reader, making and sharing a place.
The teasing title poem of this book is about weather. Rain falls, wind cracks its cheeks as in Macbeth; the noises are drops like kisses falling, ‘fallen into birdsong on Mars’. What would it sound like, be like, to hear it? The poem wants to know what it can’t yet know. But as the book proceeds, the poet – on a human heath, tormented by loss – hears something like it, unearthly sounds on a planet without atmosphere, sound making quite another kind of sense.
Centenary Selected Poems marks the poet’s 100th birthday and is the first book to reveal the full range of his poetry. All his natural and invented voices speak here – animals, inanimate objects, dramatic monologues by famous, imaginary and anonymous people – in all sort of forms and styles – sonnets, science fiction constructions, concrete poetry, sound poems, his own invented stanzas – together with his evocations of place, in particular his inexhaustible home city of Glasgow. They all illustrate his incurable curiosity and a kind of relentless optimism for humanity.
John Anthony Burgess Wilson (1917-93) was an industrious writer. He published over fifty books, thousands of essays and numerous drafts and fragments survive. He predicted many of the struggles and challenges of his own and the following century.
Burgess’s most famous book is A Clockwork Orange (1962), later adapted into a controversial film by Stanley Kubrick. The linguistic innovations of that novel, the strict formal devices used to contain them, and its range of themes are all to be found too in Burgess’s poetry, an area of his work where he was at once most free and most experimental. His flair for words, formal discipline, experimentalism, and fondness for variousness mark every page.
‘This is sly, subtle, elliptical work, entrapping both subject and reader in something queasily human […] It’s the sign of a poet utterly in control of her gifts. This may seem a strange thing to say about a book so filled with unreliable narrators, but in Deformations Dugdale proves hers is a voice you can trust.’ Tristram Fane Saunders, The Telegraph, Poetry Book of the Month
Deformations includes two large-scale works related in their preoccupation with biographical and mythical narrative. ‘Welfare Handbook’ explores the life and art of Eric Gill, the well-known English letter cutter, sculptor and cultural figure, who is known to have sexually abused his daughters. The poem draws on material from Gill’s letters, diaries, notes and essays as part of a lyrical exploration of the conjunction between aesthetics, subjectivity and violence. ‘Pitysad’ is a series of simultaneously occurring fragments composed around themes and characters from Homer’s Odyssey. It considers how trauma is disguised and deformed through myth and art. Acting as a bridge between these two works is a series of individual poems on the creation and destruction of cultural and mythical conventions.
‘In FURY, Morley’s concerns combine as never before into a keening, politicised call to pay attention to the missing, the lost, and the deliberately elided.’ – Sinead Morrissey, PBS Autumn Bulletin
FURY sees the Ted Hughes Award winner David Morley once more seeking to give imaginative voice to the natural world and to those silenced or overlooked in modern society, ranging from the Romany communities of past and present Britain, to Tyson Fury and Towfiq Bihani, one of the forgotten inmates of the Guantanamo bay detention centre. In poems that bristle with linguistic energy and that celebrate poetry’s power to give arresting voice to the unspoken and the untold, in ourselves and our societies, FURY is David Morley’s most powerfully political work. It is a passionate testament to poetry’s capacity to speak to, and for, us and our place in the world – its power to be an outreached hand, like the ‘trembling hands’ of the magician in ‘The Thrown Voice’ or the ‘living hand’ of the poets celebrated in ‘Translations of a Stammerer’.
‘A remarkably self-assured first collection, enjoying all the usual Carcanet virtues of precision, subtlety and understatement.’ – The Morning Star
Growlery conjures a place haunted by flooded villages, broken ankles, ovarian health and factories. It dwells on a world of civic tensions, in the twilit zone between city and country, the human and the natural. Here, Brexit is a city with streets ‘worn into themselves like grafted skin’, corpse flowers bloom in America, and urban foundations crumble into cisterns.
Horrex – whose poems found an enthusiastic readership via Carcanet’s New Poetries series – unpicks the illusion that order upholds society and reveals the true ramshackle complexion of things. Her debut collection reimagines the ‘growlery’ of Dickens’ Bleak House by looking at the concept of internal space in a twenty-first century which is both connected and disjointed.
Homunculus is a long poem from award-winning poet and translator James Womack, based around the Elegies of the Roman poet Maximian. The last of the Roman poets, Maximian wrote in the sixth century, after the fall of the Western Roman Empire; critics have called his Elegies ‘one of the strangest documents of the human mind’, and W.H. Auden singled him out as a ‘really remarkable poet’. Womack’s versioning of the Elegies shows how this harsh poem of sex and old age can speak to our own contemporary, collapsing world.
John Birtwhistle has said that ‘one writes each poem just to learn how to write it’, and insists that he ‘doesn’t care a dried pea for Artistic Development or Finding One’s Own Voice’. The result, of course, is that a strongly recognisable voice comes through. For all their variety of forms and ideas, his poems are consistent in their visual precision, their scrupulous phrasing and their formal clarity. These qualities are brought to everything he touches, whether it is a passing moment of childhood, a natural detail, a wryly stoic observation, or perennial emotions in the face of events from before birth (first foetal movements) to after burial (removal to an ossuary).
Many scores of individuals are named or make their appearance in some way. If one poem is satiric, the next is unashamedly lyrical. Several reflect on the adequacy of art, and a feature is the stream of very short pieces by way of illustration or riposte, like the border of the Bayeux Tapestry. Wit and feeling are so interwoven in Birtwhistle’s technique, that when it comes to the register of loss and death he is able to find what an otherwise hostile critic admitted ‘can be a kind of bridled eloquence’. Word frequency analysis shows a high incidence of time, thought, light, morning, child, apple tree, painting and fossil.
PLACE begins with a poem dated 5 June 2009, located at St Laurent Sur Mer, better known by its code name Omaha Beach, one of the sites of the American landings in Normandy on 6 June 1944. It is the starting point for a book of poems written in the uneasy lull of a world moving towards an unknowable future. Jorie Graham explores the ways in which imagination, intuition and experience help us to navigate a life we will have no choice but to live. How does one think ethically as well as emotionally in such a world? How does one think of one’s child – of having brought a child into this world? How does love continue? As we look back, and are compelled to try to see ahead, PLACE calls us, in poems of great force and beauty, to inhabit and rejoice in a more responsive and responsible place in the world.
A new collection of poetry from one of our most renowned contemporary poets, Pulitzer Prize winner Jorie Graham.
In her formidable and clairvoyant new collection, Runaway, Jorie Graham deepens her vision of our futurity. What of us will survive? Identity may be precarious, but perhaps love is not? Keeping pace with the desperate runaway of climate change, social disruption, our new mass migrations, she struggles to reimagine a habitable present – a now – in which we might endure, wary, undaunted, ever-inventive, ‘counting silently towards infinity’. Graham’s essential voice guides us fluently ‘as we pass here now into the next-on world’, what future we have surging powerfully through these pages, where the poet implores us ‘to the last be human’.
A Tenderfoot is a novice, unaccustomed to hardship. Here, he is a white boy growing up in 1960s Ethiopia, a place he loves even as he learns his own privilege and foreignness. He hears rumours of a famine in the mountains and imagines a boy his own age living through it, surviving on angry couplets. Years after, he sees this famine-boy grown up and questions him.
A sequel to Ethiopia Boy, Beckett’s first Carcanet book, Tenderfoot sounds with praise-shouts for Asfaw the cook, for the boys living as minibus conductors or chewing-gum sellers, even for Tenderfoot’s own stomach that hangs ‘like a leopard in a thorn acacia tree’. Featuring storms and droughts, hunger and desire, donkeys who quote Samuel Johnson and a red bicycle that invites you on a poem tour of Addis Ababa, Tenderfoot takes in what is happening around but also inside the boy’s mind and body – a human transformation.
With The Barbarians Arrive Today, Evan Jones has produced the classic English Cavafy for our age. Expertly translated from Modern Greek, this edition presents Cavafy’s finest poems, short creative prose and autobiographical writings, offering unique insights into his life’s work.
Born in Alexandria, Egypt, Constantine Petrou Cavafy (1863-1933) was a minor civil servant who self-published and distributed his poems among friends; he is now regarded as one of the most significant poets of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, an influence on writers across generations and languages. The broad, rich world of the Mediterranean and its complex history are his domain, its days and nights of desire and melancholy, ambition and failure – with art always at the centre of life.
‘This is Neruda at his most, expansive, extravagant and ecstatic.’ -Andy Croft, The Morning Star
Pablo Neruda wrote the poems in Los versos del capitan as a celebration of his love for his third wife, Matilde Urrutia – a love affair that is itself celebrated in the acclaimed film Il Postino. Originally published anonymously in 1952 to spare his second wife’s feelings, this bilingual edition is the book’s first publication in Britain. Brian Cole’s translations display all the qualities of vivid imagery, sensuousness, simplicity and passion for which Neruda’s poetry is famous.
A forceful and moving final volume from one of the most masterful poets of the twentieth century.
Throughout her nearly sixty-year career, acclaimed poet Eavan Boland came to be known for her exquisite ability to weave myth, history, and the life of an ordinary woman into mesmerizing poetry. She was an essential voice in both feminist and Irish literature, praised for her ‘edgy precision, an uncanny sympathy and warmth, an unsettling sense of history’ ( J.D. McClatchy). Her final volume, The Historians, is the culmination of her signature themes, exploring the ways in which the hidden, sometimes all-but-erased stories of women’s lives can powerfully revise our sense of the past.
Two women burning letters in a back garden. A poet who died too young. A mother’s parable to her daughter. Boland listens to women who have long had no agency in the way their stories were told; in the title poem, she writes: ‘Say the word history: I see / your mother, mine. / … Their hands are full of words.’ Addressing Irish suffragettes in the final poem, Boland promises: ‘We will not leave you behind’, a promise that animates each poem in this radiant collection. These extraordinary, intimate narratives cling to the future through memory, anger, and love in ways that rebuke the official record we call history.
‘Beneath the surface of even the seemingly safest of poems, there is something lurking, almost as in old folk tales, a danger or a disquiet which is never far away.’ Andrew McMillian, PBS Autumn Bulletin
The Long Beds explores the cell-like containment of the small hours when the body has no estate but its bed, while – waking or dreaming – the mind sets out on its travels, often in the realms of an old life, cherished items or relinquished connections. Central to the poems’ imagery is the presence of a bedstead that has survived a bombing raid, protecting only what was bundled underneath it. In painterly language Kate Miller also trains her eye and ear outwards on grand, impersonal scenes: London at dawn, riverbanks and docks, the corridors of a great hospital: to uncover fogged experience and restore colour to memory. Her poems prod us awake at first light and release us into the morning.
This Selected celebrates Scotland’s most distinctive contemporary writer, a vivid minimalist, ruralist, and experimentalist. His poems most often are first published by Moschatel Press, which Clark and his wife, the artist Laurie Clark, set up in 1973. Here presentation is an aspect of form. Some poems appear in sequences, some feature singly and some are as short as a single line. The poems are verbally memorable, but also visually so. The longer poems are built up out of such precisions, extended, connected. Ballad and folk song are never far away.
‘Two Tongues is a collection of singularly energetic grace, whose rueful, restless poems are as fascinated by what others want us to be, as by what we want to be ourselves.’ -W. N. Herbert
Slip-ups, skirmishes and the sidelong glance characterise Claudine Toutoungi’s Two Tongues, a surreal and startling second collection that takes on the dislocations and double takes of modern life and weaves from them poems of wit, grit and delicious abandon. In a landscape populated by levitating snailfish, sotto voce therapists, melancholic kittiwakes and collapsing stage sets, boundaries blur, languages merge, vision is partial and identity nothing but fluid. Misdirected medical reminders, discarded letters, crossed wires and linguistic mash-ups proliferate as the urban and natural worlds collide in an exuberant exploration of confusion – spatial, verbal and psychological. A gallery is overrun with mushrooms, a scientist takes home a fox-cub to nurse, a wild swimmer grapples with sharks and all the while these questing, querulous poems shape-shift from searing to soulful to droll to defiant, as they confess, cajole, sometimes ponder, occasionally pout and perpetually wrestle with our fractured world.
The clearly-focussed lyrics of Les Murray’s Waiting for the Past are rich in topographies and the languages peculiar to them – wonga vines, lyre birds, gum trees, shrike thrushes, tallow boughs, boab trees, the octopus in Wylies Baths killed by sterilising chlorine.
With the erasures the modern world brings, words, landscapes and lives descend to the Esperanto of the modern.
The poet, with a salutary resistance, rejects the computer and the incursions of the levelling Modern in favour of old-fashioned typewriters, unlikely saints, lived-in places, an Easter rabbit ‘edible and risen’, farming in the spirit of ancestors.
This is the past he waits for in scenes unmade by human carelessness, not only in his rural place but across the world.
The poems speak of the unspeakable, including old age, vertigo, illness, and the durable resilience of married love.
Bill Manhire’s Wow opens with the voice of an extinct bird, a song from anciency, and takes us forward into the present and the darkening future of other extinctions. For Manhire, the reach of the lyric is long: it has the penetration of comedy, satire, the Jeremiad, but also the delicacy of minute detail and the rhythms of nature’s comfort and hope, the promise of renewal. In the title poem the baby says ‘Wow’, and the wonder is real at the world and at language. But the world will have the last word.
Writing of Manhire, Teju Cole declared, ‘Being the leading poet in New Zealand is like being the best DJ in Estonia, impressive enough on its own terms. But Bill Manhire is more than that: he’s unquestionably world-class. As with Seamus Heaney, you get a sense of someone with a steady hand on the tiller, and both the will and the craft to take your breath away.’
Bill Manhire was New Zealand’s first poet laureate. He established and until recently directed the International Institute of Modern Letters at Victoria University of Wellington. This is the ninth of his Carcanet books in 30 years. They include a Selected and a Collected Poems.