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.
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.
Andrew Marvell was born in Yorkshire in 1624 and was educated in Hull and Cambridge. He became the unofficial laureate to Cromwell and in 1657 he took over from Milton as the Latin Secretary to the Council of State. Famed as a satirist during his lifetime Marvell was a virtually unknown lyric poet until rediscovered in the nineteenth century. However, it was only after the First World War that his poetry gained popularity thanks to the efforts of T. S. Eliot and Sir Herbert Grierson. Marvell died in 1678.
Writing stories that are extravagant and fanciful, fifteen-year old Angel retreats to a world of romance, escaping the drabness of provincial life. She knows she is different, that she is destined to become a feted authoress, owner of great riches and of Paradise House . . .
After reading The Lady Irania, publishers Brace and Gilchrist are certain the novel will be a success, in spite of – perhaps because of – its overblown style. But they are curious as to who could have written such a book – an elderly lady, romanticising behind lace curtains? A mustachioed rogue?
They were not expecting it to be the pale, serious teenage girl, sitting before them without a hint of irony in her soul.
This unique book, which is both playful and serious, features poems and artwork on animals and species whose existence and well-being is threatened by humankind’s rapacious activities on our planet. The poems themselves can be enjoyed by children and adults alike, while the footnotes to each poem contain fascinating and often startling information on the animals, their behaviour patterns, and how their species may be under threat. There are poems on more than 40 animals birds and insects, including the well-known (skylark, panda, and bumble bee), the little known, (gastric brooding frog, cave racer snake, and skink), to the exotic (Madagascan robber moth). The poems are complemented by Rose Sanderson’s distinctive illustrations.
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.
Are we corrupt or innocent, fragmented or whole? Are responsibility and freedom irreconcilable? Do we value memory or succumb to our forgetfulness? Application for Release from the Dream, Tony Hoagland’s fifth collection of poems, pursues these questions with the fierce abandon of one who needs to know how a citizen of 21st-century America can stay human. With whiplash nerve and tender curiosity, Hoagland surveys the damage and finds the wonder that makes living worthwhile. Mirthful, fearless, and precise, these poems are full of judgment and mercy. Tony Hoagland’s poems poke and provoke at the same time as they entertain and delight. He is American poetry’s hilarious ‘high priest of irony’, a wisecracker and a risk-taker whose disarming humour, self-scathing and tenderness are all fuelled by an aggressive moral intelligence. He pushes the poem not just to its limits but over the edge.
David Clarke’s first full collection of poems, Arc, follows on from an acclaimed and award-winning pamphlet Gaud (winner of the 2013 Michael Marks Pamphlet Prize, published by Flarestack). Follow the trail of these fleet-footed poems, and you’ll be swept along from sonnets for Scott Walker to Orpheus as white van man, via ‘epic fails’ and sword-swallowing for beginners. It’s a memorable trip you’ll want to start afresh as soon as you finish reading. By turns subtle, bittersweet and wickedly sharp, this is a debut collection of poems to be savoured and shared.
With Armour, the great Australian poet John Kinsella has written his most spiritual work to date – and his most politically engaged. The world in which these poems unfold is strangely poised between the material and the immaterial, and everything which enters it – kestrel and fox, moth and almond – does so illuminated by its own vivid presence: the impression is less a poet honouring his subjects than uncannily inhabiting them. Elsewhere we find a poetry of lyric protest, as Kinsella scrutinizes the equivocal place of the human within this natural landscape, both as tenant and self-appointed steward. Armour is a beautifully various work, one of sharp ecological and social critique – but also one of meticulous invocation and quiet astonishment, whose atmosphere will haunt the reader long after they close the book.
‘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.
This is the book that thoughtful readers of Charles Bukowski have been waiting for. Based on extensive research, it places Bukowski’s poetry in it’s American cultural context, and explores the key poems and collections in his development. It traces magazines, literary contacts and influences from the mid-1940’s to The Last Night of the Earth Poems (1992).
Want to know about Bukowski and the movies, the Beats, Hemingway, Céline and Walt Whitman? About how and why Bukowski formed his unique style and image? And about where he fits in to West Coast and post-War American verse? Scholarly but accessible, this is the essential book to have. Also contains drawings by David Hernandez, rare photographs of C.B., and a preface by Gerald Locklin. – The Editor
‘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.
Assembly Lines asks what it means to be here and now, in post-industrial towns and cities of the heartlands that are forever on the periphery. From schools and workplaces and lives lived in ‘a different town, just like this’, these poems take a historical perspective on the present day from the ground upwards – whether the geological strata that underpins a ‘dithering island’ or the ever-moving turf under a racehorses’ hooves. This is a new Midlands realism, precision-engineered, which seeks wonderment in unlikely places. By turns both fierce and tender, the poems in Jane Commane’s first book-length collection re-assemble the landscape, offer up an alternative national curriculum and find ghosts and strange magic in the machinery of the everyday. Between disappearances and reformations, the natural and the man-made, the lines are drawn; you might try to leave your hometown, but it will never leave you.
The body is the ‘bad machine’ of George Szirtes’ latest book of poems. The sudden death of his elderly father and of his younger friend, the poet Michael Murphy, remind him how machines – sources of energy and delight in their prime – go so easily wrong; and that change in the body is a signal for moving on. But language too is a body. Here, politics, assimilation, desire, creatureliness and the pleasure and loss of the body, mingle in various attenuated forms such as lexicon, canzone, acrostics, mirror poems, postcards, and a series of ‘minimenta’ after Anselm Kiefer whose love of history as rubble and monument haunts this collection. George Szirtes is one of our most inventive – and constantly reinventing – poets, and Bad Machine shows him developing new themes and new ways of writing in poems which stretch the possibilities of form and question language and its mastery.
Paul Birtill’s new collection Bad News sees the poet return to his favourite themes of death, relationships and mental illness with his usual brand of dark humour, deep-veined irony and more than one poem about Coronavirus.
Paul Birtill was born in Walton, Liverpool in 1960 and lives in London. He has published a number of collections with Hearing Eye, including New and Selected Poems. He is also an accomplished playwright and several of his plays have been staged at London theatres, including Squalor, which was short-listed for the prestigious Verity Bargate award.
“Packed with short, sharp, witty and irreverent observations.” – John Healy
“Makes me laugh and feel depressed at the same time, and that’s a rare gift.” – John Cooper Clarke
“Time and again his dark humour hits the mark.” – Harry Eyres, Financial Times
“His stark and hard-hitting verse skilfully echoes the neuroses of life.” – Irish Post
Vicky Foster is one very capable writer and Bathwater is a very personal story. Using her own real-life experience of what happens when violence spills over into family life, Bathwater is a gripping, ever-twisting, often moving, somewhat shocking and often agonising piece of work. Rather than a cathartic over-share, however, Foster goes way beyond writing what she knows in order to craft something that is simultaneously hard-hitting and poetic. She has written a work of literary beauty, despite the harsh and uncomfortable subject matter, combining prose, poetry and dialogue.
This is as bold a line in the sand as a writer can make to announce their arrival. Given her enormous talent and ability to weave a piece of work so well, there’ll be plenty more to come from Foster’s experience-fuelled imagination as she strides, confidently, into the literary and poetic world.
Anna, Molly, Ming, Caroline, Helen: the Old Friends.
Since adopting their official name aged eleven, they have seen each other through careers, children, illnesses, marriage, divorce, addiction, fame, fall outs.
But now, Anna – fiercely loved mother and friend, and the Old Friends’ glue – is diagnosed with cancer again, and this time, tired of recoveries and relapses, pitying looks and exhausting regimes, she simply says: no more.
As her health declines, the politics of the still lived-in world merge with memories of the past while each Old Friend tries to accept the truth of what is happening: they are losing someone they cannot imagine life without.
Before Everything is a celebration of friendship and love between a group of wonderful women.
This debut collection of poems by former Birmingham Poet Laureate Roy McFarlane explores love, loss, adoption and identity in powerful, precise and emotionally-charged poetry. From bereavement comes forth a life story in poems; the journey of sons, friends, lovers and parents, and all the moments of growing-up, discovery, falling in and out of love and learning to say goodbye that come along the way. Themes of place, identity, history, and race interweave personal narratives, with and poems that touch on everything from the ‘Tebbitt Test’ and Marvin Gaye to the Black Country, that ‘place just off the M6’. Distinct and memorable, McFarlane’s poems are beautifully focused, moving their readers between both the spiritual and the sensual worlds with graceful, rapturous hymns to the transformative power of love.
‘Being Alive’ is the sequel to ‘Staying Alive’, which became Britain’s most popular poetry book because it gave readers hundreds of thoughtful and passionate poems about living in the modern world. Now he has assembled this equally lively companion anthology for all those readers who’ve wanted more poems that touch the heart, stir the mind and fire the spirit. ‘Being Alive’ is about being human: about love and loss, fear and longing, hurt and wonder. ‘Staying Alive’ didn’t just reach a broader readership, it introduced thousands of new readers to contemporary poetry, giving them an international gathering of poems of great personal force, poems with emotional power, intellectual edge and playful wit. It also brought many readers back to poetry, people who hadn’t read poetry for years because it hadn’t held their interest. ‘Being Alive’ gives readers an even wider selection of vivid, brilliantly diverse contemporary poetry from around the world. A third companion anthology, ‘Being Human’ (2011), completes this modern poetry trilogy.
In this series, a contemporary poet selects and introduces a poet of the past. By their selection of verses and by the personal and critical reactions they express in their introductions, the selectors offer a passionate and accessible introduction to some of the greatest poets in history. Ben Jonson (1572-1637) was born in London, and became a leading poet, playwright and essayist of the Elizabethan age. In 1598he killed an actor in a duel but escaped hanging by pleading benefit of the clergy, and by 1616 had re-established enough Court favour to be awarded a pension by James I – in effect making him the first Poet Laureate.
Sisters of the Quantock Hills is the compelling saga of the lives and loves of four sisters – Frances, Julia, Gwen and Sarah Purcell – and their neighbours, the Mackenzies. Set during the early part of the last century, the series encompasses two World Wars, and the sisters’ individual stories are told against the backdrop of major historical events happening at the time.
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.
Lupita and Genesis have just wasted a drug dealer, stolen his stash and hit the open road with a suitcase full of dirty money. Little do they know that their road trip will set them on a collision course with a side of America darker and weirder than any of them have ever known.
This mischievous Malaysian-setnovel is an adventure featuring family, ghosts and local gods – from Hugo Award winning novelist Zen Cho.
Her grandmother may be dead, but she’s not done with life . . . yet.
As Jessamyn packs for Malaysia, it’s not a good time to start hearing a bossy voice in her head. Broke, jobless and just graduated, she’s abandoning America to return ‘home’. But she last saw Malaysia as a toddler – and is completely unprepared for its ghosts, gods and her eccentric family’s shenanigans.
Jess soon learns her ‘voice’ belongs to Ah Ma, her late grandmother. She worshipped the Black Water Sister, a local deity. And when a business magnate dared to offend her goddess, Ah Ma swore revenge. Now she’s decided Jess will help, whether she wants to or not.
As Ah Ma blackmails Jess into compliance, Jess fights to retain control. But her irrepressible relative isn’t going to let a little thing like death stop her, when she can simply borrow Jess’s body to make mischief. As Jess is drawn ever deeper into a world of peril and family secrets, getting a job becomes the least of her worries.
Moniza Alvi’s new book is unified by birds. Her creations ‘Motherbird’ and ‘Fatherbird’ are inspired by her parents, and by the loss of her father and by his emigration from Pakistan. Among the many bird-related poems are versions of the French poets Jules Supervielle and Saint-John Perse, and poems ‘after’ the paintings of the Spanish-Mexican surrealist artist Remedios Varo. Blackbird, Bye Bye is Moniza Alvi’s first new poetry book since her T.S. Eliot Prize-shortlisted collection At the Time of Partition, published in 2013.
The inner monologue of a woman haunted by German composer Arnold Schoenberg’s portrait, following a complex romantic encounter with an American-German pianist-composer in Berlin. As the irresistible, impossible narrator flies home she unpicks her social failures while the pianist reaches towards a musical self-portrait with all the resonance of Schoenberg’s passionate, chilling blue. A contemporary novel of angst and high farce, Blue Self-Portrait unfolds among Berlin’s cultural institutions but is more truly located in the mid-air flux between contrary impulses to remember and to ignore. In Blue Self-Portrait Noemi Lefebvre shows how music continues to work on and through us, addressing past trauma while reaching for possible futures.
“The crafted sincerity of this potent, lyrical collection, in which an absolutely contemporary voice concisely expresses common concerns, is everything that poetry should be.” Times Literary Supplement
There were once more than a thousand men and boys worked at Brandon Pithouse in County Durham. Today the site of the colliery is a green wilderness. John Seed has set out to recover the lost and silent world of Durham pitmen in the company of Walter Benjamin, Sid Chaplin and Charles Reznikoff. Composed of fragments of recorded speech, parliamentary reports and newspapers, Brandon Pithouse is a book about the experience of labour about the pain and danger of working underground, about the damage to the human body and about the human relationships created in such conditions. It is a study in the attachments and distances which shape our relationships to place and time, the negotiations required to reconnect ourselves to a world that ceased to exist in the 1990s. It is a set of notes for an unmade Eisenstein film and a footnote to chapter 10 of the first volume of Marx s Capital. And like any history, it is a ghost story.
From the nightmarish first story set in the South China Sea in 1946 to the final piece, set nowhere at the end of time, Brief Lives demonstrates in a short compass a huge range in technique and milieu and a unity of theme and sensibility. It opens naturalistically but is distinctly non-realist by the close. We meet an ex-collier in 1950 anguishing over whether to return to the pit, a young mother in the early 1960s quietly shepherding those around her through a bleak Christmas day, an industrial chemist in this century plunged into vortices of memories that cause him to question his grasp of the world, and more. Meredith’s fiction has been marked by its willingness to push at literary boundaries, and Brief Lives is no exception: it is an intense distillation of Meredith’s abiding concerns to explore how memory shapes the present and the present shapes memory, the interplay between beautifully realised individual lives and the wider historical process, and the paradox of simultaneous human isolation and community.
An astounding literary accomplishment, Bring Up the Bodies is the story of this most terrifying moment of history, by one of our greatest living novelists. Bring Up the Bodies unlocks the darkly glittering court of Henry VIII, where Thomas Cromwell is now chief minister. With Henry captivated by plain Jane Seymour and rumours of Anne Boleyn’s faithlessness whispered by all, Cromwell knows what he must do to secure his position.
But the bloody theatre of the queen’s final days will leave no one unscathed.
‘A great novel of dark and dirty passions, public and private. A truly great story’ Financial Times ‘In another league.
This ongoing story of Henry VIII’s right-hand man is the finest piece of historical fiction I have ever read’ Sunday Telegraph
A Wedding Story
‘A spry if wintry comedy about a lesbian, a wedding-day bonk, and a mother who contracts Alzheimer’s… It dares to find failure and frivolity (a sure sign of dramatic honesty) in the face of domestic hell. Funny, frank and churning by turns, this struck me as a lyrical new play about the unlyrical business of coping when real life knocks on the door.’ Daily Express
Frozen Winner of the TMA Best New Play award and Eileen Anderson Central Television Award for Best Play.
‘Bryony Lavery’s big, brave, compassionate play about grief, revenge, forgiveness and bearing the unbearable.’ Guardian
‘A major play… thrilling, humane and timely.’ The Times
‘Consistently surprising and even bravely comic… The almost thriller-like promise of the play’s climactic confrontation is like a time-bomb ticking in the back of your head.’ Independent
A young war reporter gets abducted and finds herself in the midst of a cycle of violence, in a land crippled by hate.
‘Triumphant… A startlingly metaphorical play about the creation of art.’ Independent