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.
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
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
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.
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’.
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.
Alice and the North is a sequence of prose poems that form a love-song to the North, its post-industrial landscapes, wild uplands, obsession with weather, seasonal change and awkwardness. Like Lewis Carroll’s Alice before her, the lead character shifts and changes as her journey across the North continues; she is at turns playful, sexy, rebellious and adventurous, carving a new identity for the region as she goes.
From herring quines to the hidden corners of Manchester, from Lytham St Anne’s to the canals of Congleton, readers are invited to grow up with Alice as she finds her voice – straddling the territory between prose and poetry, exploring the down to earth cadences of everyday speech and the richness of the North’s many idioms and dialects.
Alice even finds time to gently tease the ‘titans’ of Northern poetry, Ted Hughes and Simon Armitage, whose voices have long shaped the poetry-reading public’s idea of the North. Now, however, they must step aside and make room for Alice.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.