In 2015, Inua Ellams was poet in residence at the Poetry Library at the Southbank Centre in London. His #Afterhours project took him on a voyage of cultural translation and transposition through time and place, to the heart of the libraries archive collections, and through his own life s story as he selected poems published during each year of his life, from birth to the age of 18.
In return, Ellams opens up a captivating and potent dialogue between poems, writing a diary and intricately-crafted poems of his own in conversational response to the poems he selected from the library collections. Here, for the first time together, are the collected #Afterhours poems alongside the re-discovered poems which inspired them and the diary entries which follow this journey. In Ellams meticulous hands, this becomes an entire narrative in its own right, compelling and magnetic, drawing parallels of displacement, language and reclamation, and showing poetry’s great capacity to be a powerful amplifier of human experience.
This epoch-marking anthology presents a map of poetry from Britain and Ireland which readers can follow. You will not get lost here as in other anthologies – with their vast lists of poets summoned up to serve a critic’s argument or to illustrate a journalistic overview. Instead, Edna Longley shows you the key poets of the century, and through interlinking commentary points up the connections between them as well as their relationship with the continuing poetic traditions of these islands.
The anthology covers the work of 70 poets: Thomas Hardy, W.B. Yeats, Edward Thomas, D.H. Lawrence, Siegfried Sassoon, Edwin Muir, T.S. Eliot, Ivor Gurney, Isaac Rosenberg, Hugh MacDiarmid, Wilfred Owen, Charles Hamilton Sorley, Robert Graves, Austin Clarke, Basil Bunting, Stevie Smith, Patrick Kavanagh, Norman Cameron, William Empson, W.H. Auden, Louis MacNeice, John Hewitt, Robert Garioch, Norman MacCaig, R.S. Thomas, Henry Reed, Dylan Thomas, Alun Lewis, W.S. Graham, Keith Douglas, Edwin Morgan, Philip Larkin, Ian Hamilton Finlay, John Montague, Thom Gunn, Ted Hughes, Geoffrey Hill, Sylvia Plath, Fleur Adcock, Tony Harrison, Seamus Heaney, Michael Longley, Derek Mahon, Douglas Dunn, Eiléan Ní Chuilleanáin, Paul Durcan, Tom Leonard, Carol Rumens, Selima Hill, Ciaran Carson, James Fenton, Medbh McGuckian, Paul Muldoon, Jo Shapcott, Ian Duhig, Carol Ann Duffy, Kathleen Jamie, Simon Armitage and Don Paterson.
The 52 project started with a simple idea: Write a poem a week. Start now. Keep going. It became a phenomenon. Hundreds of poets took up the challenge and their poems swept the board of poetry prizes, publications and personal successes. This book brings together the 52 prompts written by poet Jo Bell and by guest poets ranging from David Morley to Rachael Boast, so that you can pick up the challenge yourself. With contemporary poems to illustrate each prompt, it’s a fine anthology as well as a book of lively and engaging exercises for poets, whether beginner or well-established.
She was ten years old, but knew enough to wipe clean the handle of the bloody kitchen knife. The night was stifling; the windows were closed, sealing in the chaos. A table upturned, shattered crockery. Her distraught mother, bare shoulders raw with welts, knelt beside her motionless father. The child snatched up her backpack, and ran…
London sweats in the height of summer. The parched city has slowed to a claustrophobic shuffle and there’s no end in sight. Heroin-addicted investigator Catherine Berlin hides her scars from prying eyes while working on the worst of all cases: matrimonial.
The capital’s junkies suffer from a drought of a different kind. A strung-out ghost from Berlin’s past turns up on her doorstep with a desperate plea for help: her ten-year-old daughter is missing. Reminded of a debt owed, Berlin agrees to help, but the search becomes far deadlier than she could ever imagine, drawing her deep into an underworld of corrupt detectives, ruthless drug dealers, and a child killer…
A Bitter Taste is the thrilling second instalment in the magnificent crime series featuring civilian investigator Catherine Berlin, whose long-standing heroin addiction is only part of her story.
Meet Monsieur Benoit, who appeared suddenly in Paris with a scheme for telegraphing messages across the world (or, at least, across the room) by means of electricity and the telepathic power of snails, and actually raised the money to build this extraordinary machine.
His powers of persuasion clearly exceeded those of Colonel Baker, who seemed the personification of Victorian solidity until that embarrassing incident in the sealed railway compartment, where he failed to entice Miss Dickinson to join in his bit of fun, and afterwards had to try and explain his conduct to the High Court, with the whole nation hanging on his every word.
Here is a fascinating collection of some of history’s most extraordinary characters. Richard Glyn Jones has cast his net wide to gather these accounts of human oddity and eccentricity, and the standard of his writing is high, with Lytton Strachey, Derek Hudson, Christopher Sykes and Ronald Knox among the authors included. Hilariously funny, sometimes rather sad, but invariably interesting, this is a superbly diverting book. And, with a couple of tiny exceptions, it’s all true.
Organ donation is in its infancy and Daisy Howard, who is giving a kidney to her aunt, is in the hands of a pioneering surgeon. After the operation, Daisy is desperate to get back to her family, yet the days go by and she remains in the hospital; meanwhile, an old friend keeps visiting with news of home, and Daisy becomes increasingly uneasy.
A Fold in the Map charts two very different voyages: a tracing of the dislocations of leaving one’s native country, and a searching exploration of grief at a father’s final painful journey. In the first part of the collection, Plenty — “before the fold” — the poems deal with family, and longing for home from a new country, with all the ambiguity and doubleness this perspective entails. In the book’s second half, Meet My Father, the poems recount events more life-changing than merely moving abroad — a father’s illness and death, the loss of some of the plenty of the earlier poems.
“Italian writer and director Pier Paolo Pasolini once wrote that if a poet doesn’t manage to scare his readers anymore, then it would be better for him to run away from this world. What kind of use can in fact be a tamed poet to the human race? Apparently, Dan Fante knows this well: his first collection of poems by the unpronounceable title, A Gin Pissing, Raw Meat, Dual Carburattor V-8 Son-of-a-Bitch from Los Angeles, shows that he literally aims with his works not only to scare, but also to scar his readers, biting their minds, hearts and souls with his words: indeed, Dan Fante’s poems are a poetic ebb and flow revolving on the readers conscience…” – Erasing Clouds
An exquisite collection from a poet at the peak of her powers, A God at the Door spans time and space, drawing on the extraordinary minutiae of nature and humanity to elevate the marginalised. Extending the territory of her zeitgeist collection Girls Are Coming Out of the Woods, these new poems traverse history, from the cosmic to the everyday. There is a playful spikiness to be found in poems like ‘Why the Brazilian Butt Lift Won’t Save Us’, while others, such as ‘I Found a Village and in it Were All Our Missing Women’, are fed by rage. As the collection unfolds, there are gem-like poems such as ‘I Carry My Uterus in a Small Suitcase’ which sparkles on the page with impeccable precision. Later, there are the sharp shocks delivered by two mirrored poems set side by side, ‘Microeconomics’ and ‘Macroeconomics’. Tishani Doshi’s poetry deploys beauty to heal trauma, enabling the voices of the oppressed to be heard with piercing clarity. From flightless birds and witches, to black holes and Marilyn Monroe, A God at the Door illuminates with lines and images that surprise, inflame and dazzle.
Love is in the air in the little village of Barton-in-the-Dale. Anyone can see that Ashley Underwood and Emmet O’Malley are made for each other. They’ve just got to admit it to themselves . . . But as the saying goes, the course of true love never did run smooth.
While romance blossoms on one side of the village, an angry young boy struggles to believe in love. But when tragedy strikes, he learns that comfort and care can come from the most unexpected of places.
Meanwhile, head teacher Elisabeth Stirling faces a new challenge for the start of the school year. An eccentric teacher joins the staff, and there’s also a worrying case of potential negligence to answer. In the village too, a puritanical new vicar stirs up trouble. But as always, mixed in with the drama there’s plenty of gossip, laughter, friendship – and love – in Barton-in-the-Dale.
The bustle of an English seaside resort gives way to the unreal calm of a coastal community in southern Sri Lanka as Savi and Renu, two cousins separated by civil war, are reunited just weeks before the tsunami strikes. Renu is struggling to find evidence that will bring political killers to justice; Savi is struggling to heal the damage wrought by a broken childhood. They are just catching up with the secrets of the past when the past catches up with them.
This haunting and richly textured novel of intersecting lives, memory and loss confronts the twin tragedies of a brutal civil war and the Boxing Day tsunami, revealing the intimate connections between silence and violence, displacement and desire.
Television’s most popular car show presenter lives his life in the shadow of his career and his persona. He has the perfect job. He doesn’t have the perfect family. His wife retches in the bathrooms of exclusive restaurants; his daughter’s obsession with a friend is consuming her; his son lives a double life selling pornography by day and gaming on-line by night. The presenter views his family from the outside and watches as they slowly disintegrate in front of him, unable to control anything that is not scripted. Socrates Adams perfectly mirrors what magazines sell to their readers in a bleak, satirical look at what modern families might think they want to be.
Frances Howard has beauty and a powerful family – and is the most unhappy creature in the world.
Anne Turner has wit and talent – but no stage on which to display them. Little stands between her and the abyss of destitution.
When these two very different women meet in the strangest of circumstances, a powerful friendship is sparked. Frankie sweeps Anne into a world of splendour that exceeds all she imagined: a Court whose foreign king is a stranger to his own subjects; where ancient families fight for power, and where the sovereign’s favourite may rise and rise – so long as he remains in favour.
With the marriage of their talents, Anne and Frankie enter this extravagant, savage hunting ground, seeking a little happiness for themselves. But as they gain notice, they also gain enemies; what began as a search for love and safety leads to desperate acts that could cost them everything.
Based on the true scandal that rocked the court of James I, A Net for Small Fishes is the most gripping novel you’ll read this year: an exhilarating dive into the pitch-dark waters of the Jacobean court.
In 2013, Leanne O’Sullivan’s husband Andrew suffered a severe infection in his brain. He spent just over three weeks in a coma, during which time his temperature soared to 42 degrees. When he finally woke it immediately became clear that his memory had been almost completely destroyed; he didn’t even know his wife. More present and visual to him were the birds and wild animals that he believed he could see during his recovery: foxes, wildcats and herons – animals that seemed to be guiding him back.
This became the starting point for poems that deal not simply with personal memory and recovery, but also the ways in which, collectively, even globally, we are trying (or not) to save entire species of plants and animals that we are now actually losing because of human activity. Nature has a voice that can speak back. This is a collection that celebrates the earth’s intoxicating wildness as well as the richness and preciousness of human experience. Overall, we can rejoice in the fact that we’re here, whatever the challenges.
Winner of the inaugural Farmgate Café National Poetry Award 2019
Shortlisted for the Irish Times Poetry Now Award 2019 and for the Pigott Poetry Prize 2019 in association with Listowel Writers’ Week
Maura Dooley was Poet-in-Residence at Jane Austen s home in Chawton, Hampshire. The house, now a museum, is where Austen wrote most of her novels. These poems offer glimpses of Austen’s still potent presence in the modest house in which, at a tiny table, she wrote her greatest works.
Born into a Roma family in 1960s’ Yugoslavia, Janek Hudorovec has grown up with a terrible secret. Given the opportunity to ‘make something of himself’, he abandons the familiar wild and tactile world of nature and enters the controlled, rational life of university and the city. Here Janek proves himself to be not a conscious rebel but a spontaneous one; under the influences of impulses he cannot control. While his teachers try to understand and categorize him, it is only his fellow student, Daria, who seems able to provide a rational insight into the causes of his behaviour and offer him true affection. Yet the battle that Janek must fight with his past leads him back to the gypsy village, and a terrible denouement. This tragic story of self-punishment explores the idea that man and nature, if they are to survive, together and separately, must forever remain in conflict. Flisar’s ability to describe Janek’s inner states through juxtaposition with the outer world create a mesmerizing claustrophobia, as the reader is pulled inexorably into the nightmarish world of a man in anguish. A Swarm of Dust is widely considered to be one of Flisar’s finest works of fiction, questioning the very notion of objective truth and subverting the norms of Judeo-Christian morality.
A Vertical Art gathers the expansive and spirited public lectures delivered by Simon Armitage during his acclaimed four-year tenure as Oxford University Professor of Poetry. Armitage tries to identify a ‘common sense’ approach to an artform that can lend itself to grand statements and vacuous gestures, questioning both the facile and obscure ends of the poetry spectrum, asserting certain fundamental qualities that separate the genre from near-neighbours such as prose and song lyrics, examining who poetry is written for and its values and use in contemporary society. Above all, these are personal essays that enquire into the volatile and disputed definitions of poetry from the point of view of a dedicated reader, a practising writer and a lifelong champion of its power and potential.
A Watchful Astronomy by Paul Deaton is the thoughtful debut poetry collection by this already well-regarded author who has published his work in national magazines like The Spectator, and London Magazine as well as in more literary journals like the PN Review. A Watchful Astronomy has a distinctive flavour. The author is a realist and a formalist, preferring simple, accurate language and use of formal meter. This makes for unusually clear and accessible work. A powerful underlying current of emotion also drives these poems and is contained and restrained by the more austere formal qualities. The book is haunted by the ghost of the author’s father, a figure that appears throughout the collection as an overbearing, even threatening presence, embodied in glowering mountain ranges, in icy blasts of weather, in bits of bleak, monosyllabic dialogue. It is to the author’s credit that grudging admiration for the father’s practical skills (‘Shoemaker Father’), and a profound and lingering sense of compassion overcome what could be obdurate (if understandable) resentment. Nature is also a prime factor and facilitator in this book, both rural and urban scenes are beautifully observed and presented. There is a gift for the visceral here, for tastes and sounds. There is a tendency to describe liminal scenes and moods: dusk, a sleepless hour, a view from a precipice, a changing mood. A rigorous intelligence meets an adept sensitivity in these poems by this already accomplished as well as promising poet.
“And I struggle to find my place in this dark novel. I yearn for passion and despair for that is what makes good literature while Ishwari seeks a life of joy for herself and her son.”
A powerful novel about a woman who runs away from home, seeking to free herself from the shackles of society and familial attachments, and instead devote her attentions to writing a novel. When she realises that her five year old son Roo has followed her, Ishwari struggles with her identity as a mother and the responsibilities that brings, versus the guilty knowledge that she cannot want her own child when his existence requires her to suppress her own dreams.
Ishwari and Roo wander the streets at night, looking for a place to stay, until an elderly caretaker takes pity on them and offers them an empty room on the terrace of a guest house. Ishwari gets work as a caregiver to the handsome gentleman who lives next door, while Roo, who is lame, spends all day locked up in the room on the roof. Pulsating with raw energy, Abandon gives voice to the perpetual conflict between life and art.
In a momentous publication, Seamus Heaney’s translation of Book VI of the Aeneid, Virgil’s epic poem composed sometime between 29 and 19 BC, follows the hero, Aeneas, on his descent into the underworld.
In Stepping Stones, a book of interviews conducted by Dennis O’Driscoll, Heaney acknowledged the importance of the poem to his writing, noting that ‘there’s one Virgilian journey that has indeed been a constant presence, and that is Aeneas’s venture into the underworld.
‘The motifs in Book VI have been in my head for years – the golden bough, Charon’s barge, the quest to meet the shade of the father.’ In this new translation, Heaney employs the same deft handling of the original combined with the immediacy of language and flawless poetic voice as was on show in his translation of Beowulf, a reimagining which, in the words of Bernard O’Donoghue, brought the ancient poem back to life in ‘a miraculous mix of the poem’s original spirit and Heaney’s voice’.
‘Patience, Firmness, and Perseverance were my only weapons.’
Agnes Grey (1847) was Anne Bronte’s first novel and a poignant account of her own experience as a struggling governess, obliged to earn her living in one of the few ways open to an educated Victorian girl. Agnes is not a romantic heroine such as those we find in the books of Anne’s sisters Charlotte and Emily, but her story paints a more realistic picture of what happens when an intelligent, sensitive young woman has to endure months of isolation and frustration in an unsympathetic household that is not her home.
Three plays, ‘all written for live theatre – with the emphasis on live’, and all first performed at the Stephen Joseph Theatre, Scarborough: The Revengers’ Comedies (1989); Things We Do for Love (1997); and House & Garden (1999).
The Revengers’ Comedies A hugely entertaining pitch that recalls the old movies to which it frequently pays homage – Strangers on a Train, Rebecca, Kind Hearts and Coronets – and expands after intermission to reveal an immensely disturbing vision of contemporary middle-class England poisoned by the rise of economic ruthlessness and the collapse of ethics. New York Times
Things We Do for Love Lloyds Private Banking Playwright of the Year Award One of his best, his most shockingly and uproariously funny: a cruel and hilarious masterpiece of tragic comedy and comic tragedy. Sunday Times
House & Garden The triumph of his ingenuity lies in the fact that you have to see both plays . . . A second time round, in whichever order you take them, characters will deepen, while those you know become the background. It is a superb Ayckbourn joke that a comedy about non-communication should depend on the sharpest communication skills. Sunday Times
Snake in the Grass
“A terrific piece – brilliant, bizarre and yet totally believable… In fact, it’s more than classic; it’s close to the top of its class.” Yorkshire Post
If I Were You
“A blissfully funny comedy that’s also filled with sadness, a devilishly simple theatrical idea that spins out all kinds of complex truths about human nature.” Daily Telegraph
Life and Beth
“A wise, humane, funny play about the inevitability of death and the continuity of life.” Guardian
My Wonderful Day
“A transformation happens as magical as the most magnificent pantomime transformation anyone could ever imagine… the playwright dissolves the paraphernalia of our adult selves and uncovers that space inside each of us that is still the child we once were.” Observer
Life of Riley
“As perceptive as ever… Ayckbourn has once again achieved a satisfyingly rich, tragi-comic complexity.” Daily Telegraph
In this series, a contemporary poet selects and introduces a poet of the past. By their choice of poems and by the personal and critical reactions they express in their prefaces, the editors offer insights into their own work as well as providing an accessible and passionate introduction to some of the greatest poets of our literature. Alexander Pope (1688-1744) was an essayist, critic, satirist, poet and translator. He published “An Essay on Criticism” in 1711 and a republished version of “The Rape of the Lock” in 1714. His “Collected Works” were published in 1717 and he translated the “Iliad and the Odyssey” into English. “The Dunciad” (1728), one of his most famous works, was a vicious satire on Dullness featuring many of his contemporaries.
Jacqueline Saphra’s All My Mad Mothers explores love, sex and family relationships in vivacious, lush poems that span the decades and generations. At the heart of this collection of poems is the portrait of a mother as multitudes – as a magician with a bathroom of beauty tricks, as necromancer, as glamourous fire-starter, trapped in ever-decreasing circles and, above all else, almost impossible to grasp. With an emphasis on the cultures of the different times, we tread a tantalising tightrope between the confessional and the invented. These astute poems step assuredly from childhood’s first exposures to the scratched records and unsuitable lovers of young womanhood, the slammed doors of daughters and sons, the tears and salted soups of friendships, and the charms of late love. All the time, incandescent and luminous as an everlasting lightbulb, at the heart of each of Saphra’s poems is a delicate filament kicking out a heavy-duty wattage.
Shortlisted for the Seamus Heaney Centre for Poetry Prize for First Collection 2018
Runner-up for the Edwin Morgan Poetry Award 2016
Miriam Nash spent her early years on the Isle of Erraid, West Scotland, where Robert Louis Stevenson’s family once worked as lighthouse engineers. Voices of the island echo through her first collection, All the Prayers in the House, which holds at its heart, the rupture and re-imagining of a family. Bold, honest, playful and inventive, the collection travels far from its coastal beginnings, crossing the Atlantic, visiting a women’s prison and a 17th-century ladies dictionary. Here are poems of ritual and transgression, safety and danger. They take the form of songs, letters, fragments, formal verse many kinds of prayer perhaps, for many kinds of storm.
Alun Lewis (1915-1944), the remarkable poet and story writer, died, aged 28, in Burma during the Second World War. Some critics see him as the last of the great Romantic poets, a twentieth century Keats. Others view him as the bridge between pre-war poets like Auden and Yeats to post-war poets such as Hughes and Gunn. He was born and raised in Depression-struck south Wales and, following degrees in history at Aberystwyth and Manchester, became a teacher there. Early in 1940, despite his pacifist inclinations he enlisted and, after long periods of training, joined the war in India. Becoming a soldier galvanised Lewis’s writing. By 1944 he had written two collections of poems and one of short stories, all published to considerable acclaim. Firmly established with Keith Douglas as the leading writer of the Second World War, Lewis’s death in an accident while on active service was huge loss to English literature. This Collected Poems comprises a body of work which has endured and which transcends the label ‘war poetry’; it is complete in itself and full of promise of greater things.
An Aviary of Small Birds is both elegy to a stillborn son and testament to the redemptive qualities of poetry as a transformative art. The book opens at the birth, which paradoxically becomes the moment of death when, after a long labour and an emergency caesarean, the baby’s heart gives out. For the mother, her body flooded with endorphins, euphoria gives way to shock, followed by an intense and visceral grief. However, just as grief itself is not linear, so too the book follows an emotional rather than a strictly chronological arc, lyric rather than narrative. At the same time, McCarthy Woolf’s formal experimentation allows an intellectual and metaphysical line of enquiry to emerge. Ultimately, it is a closely felt connection with the natural world, particularly with water and birds, that allows the author to transcend the experience and honour the spirit of her son.
This book is about people today Focussing on the poet’s surprising and life-changing encounters in the North-West, Yorkshire and Bangladesh, this collection is a careful listening and a gentle plea for a more shared humanity. Adam Strickson writes about Kurdish refugees, Pakistani women, Van Gogh, Sidney Bechet and the inventor of hydraulics with equal love and attention. An Indian Rug Surprised By Snow is a serious, wise, funny and joyful book, a powerful poetic statement about how this writer has embraced the time and society he lives in.
Philosophical, exuberant, incantatory, sensual, and meditative; these poems embrace the complexities of death, loss, and love. Although observed with a detached eye their unflinching truth is simultaneously intimate and compassionate. The poems, written in both formal and free verse, explore the boundaries within the human situation. Ruth O’Callaghan was awarded a gold medal at the 30th World Congress of Poets in Taiwan, holds the prestigious Hawthornden Fellowship, and was nominated for the Pushcart Prize. She is a mentor and workshop leader both in the UK and abroad.
Outcast, mute, a lone twin cut from a drunk mother in a shack full of junk, Euchrid Eucrow of Ukulore inhabits a nightmarish Southern valley of preachers and prophets, incest and ignorance. When the God-fearing folk of the town declare a foundling child to be chosen by the Almighty, Euchrid is disturbed. He sees her very differently and his conviction, and increasing isolation and insanity, may have terrible consequences for them both.