To Sweeten the Bitter is a collection by British Jamaican poet, Raymond Antrobus. After the death of his father, Raymond returns to Jamaica but restless questions begin to unearth inside him (Who I am now is something I need to remember). Upon returning to the UK Raymond travelled to Bristol, Liverpool, Hastings, Hull and around London to meditate in the places where the pain and grief of history is bigger than his own.
One day, as if by magic, there were toads everywhere in Hull. Then, just as quickly as they appeared, they disappeared. After what seemed like the longest hibernation they are back, living within these pages.
Toad Tales is an enthralling account of the Larkin Toads’ adventures while they were away.
In Tutankhamun’s Trumpet, acclaimed Egyptologist Toby Wilkinson takes a unique approach to the boy king’s tomb and its contents. Instead of concentrating on on the oft-told story of the discovery, or speculating on the brief life and politically fractious reign of the boy king, Wilkinson takes the objects buried with him as the source material for a wide-ranging, detailed portrait of ancient Egypt – its geography, history, culture and legacy. One hundred artefacts from the tomb, arranged in ten thematic groups, are allowed to speak again – not only for themselves, but as witnesses of the civilization that created them. Never before have the treasures of Tutankhamun been analysed and presented for what they can tell us about ancient Egyptian culture, its development, its remarkable flourishing, and its lasting impact.
‘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.
Engaging above all with the matter of England in the here and now Simon Armitage focuses his attention on the conflicts within society today. The result is his wittiest, most alertly combative and impassioned collection to date.
Presenting some of the most noteworthy pieces from a remarkably influential West Indian poet, this anthology sheds light on the lesser-known literary accomplishments of Una Marson. Revealing the work of a woman whose writing pioneered the articulation of gender and racial oppression, brought Jamaican vernacular voices alongside a Wordsworth-inspired passion for nature, and ventured to give subjectivity to marginalized subjects, this collection includes, in addition to her well-known poems, previously unpublished work from the 1930s through the 1950s. Striving to answer the question of how one writes as a modern black woman reaching out to the poor and powerless, this extensive selection embodies an exceptionally significant poetic achievement.
Tony Hoagland’s zany 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 risktaker 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. Unincorporated Persons in the Late Honda Dynasty is his first new collection since What Narcissism Means to Me: Selected Poems (Bloodaxe Books, 2005). The poems – and title – try to make sense of the situation of the individual in our time, and in America in particular – Hoagland’s obsessive main subject. They worry over how to preserve a sense of self and values, connectedness and cohesiveness, in an era of market-driven culture, dazzling but toxic entertainment, and degraded and degrading idiocies cultivated by mass culture.
From the beginning, the poet was a wanderer, a storyteller, an imaginer of bridges between worlds. Zaffar Kunial is just such a poet and guide for us today. Yet his territory extends much further afield than those of the past – through Kashmir, where his father was born and now lives, to the Midlands of his mother’s birth, and further north to ancestors in Orkney, as well as through language, memory and time. Already an acknowledged star of the Faber New Poets scheme, Kunial has won admirers in such measure as to ensure that Us is one of the most anticipated debuts in recent times. Across its pages, he vocalises what it means to be a human being planting your two feet upon the dizzying earth – and he does so delicately, urgently, intimately – in some of the most original and touching ways that you will read.
Humanity explored through poetry. Twelve poets put their words first.
BBC Radio 1Xtra and Asian Network teamed up with BBC Contains Strong Language for Words First, a scheme aimed at finding the best emerging spoken word talent in the UK.
USE WORDS FIRST is a collection of 12 poets from Words First brought together in a brilliant anthology edited by Jude Yawson, co-writer of Stormzy’s Rise Up: The Story So Far and contributor to the SAFE anthology edited by Derek Owusu.
Exploring themese of identity, connectivity and mobilisation, USE WORDS FIRST brings together eclectic styles and people all exploring humanity in their own unique ways. This is a snapshot of some of the struggles, inspirations and muses of young Britain today expressed through poetry that spans from the personal to the political and is always full of beauty and power.
“Is there a poet writing in Ireland who feels so profoundly and knows more surely love’s obsessions, its piercing chronicles, its succour and sorrows than Anne Fitzgerald? The poems in Vacant Possession char the page, leaving their imprint, imperishable, unique.” – Frank McGuinness
Verse Matters harnesses the power of everyday stories, highlighting the strength and inspiration that comes from speaking out proudly in unsettled times. This anthology of poems and prose, edited by award-winning Sheffield-based writers Helen Mort and Rachel Bower, brings a diverse range of voices to the fore, from celebrated contemporary poets like Malika Booker, Liz Berry and Hollie McNish to first-time published writers from home and abroad. What brings them together is the extraordinary, ordinary tales they tell each other, and their determination to be heard.
Virga is the third book of poems by Zimbabwean poet Togara Muzanenhamo, following on from his acclaimed collections Spirit Brides (2006) and Gumiguru (2014).
Set in the twentieth century, Virga features historical events woven together by the weather. From the spiritual silence of a sundog during the 1911 Japanese Antarctic Expedition, to the 1921 World Championship chess matches in the Cuban heat, to the final hours of a young Bavarian mountaineer in the Bernese Alps in 1936 and strange white clouds decimating whole villages in northern Cameroon in 1986 – the poems capture stories of a rapidly evolving century beneath an ancient, fragile sky.
The title relates to the meteorological phenomenon in which a column, shaft or band of rain or snow is seen falling from a cloud but never reaching the earth – evaporating before touchdown. Like Gumiguru, which has so much to do with weather, Virga continues with it, its impact on our daily lives. But, here, his geography broadens out to include wider worlds and different histories artfully strung together by the poet’s fascination with the elements.
Togara Muzanenhamo was shortlisted for the Jerwood Alderburgh First Collection Prize and the Glenna Luschei Prize for African Poetry.
Viva Loch Lomond! is the first full length collection of poems published by the stand-up poet, comedian and broadcaster Elvis McGonagall. It features pieces from his hit Edinburgh Fringe Festival shows “One Man and His Doggerel” and “Countrybile” together with a number of greatest hits, B-sides and previously unpublished gems. Deftly witty, satirical but not afraid to be plain daft, Elvis McGonagall’s work takes aim at our septic isle of zero-hours contracts, food banks and Kirsty Allsopp cup-cakery and beyond. From Scottish independence to the “war on terror” via turbo-capitalist greed, from Blair and Bush to Dave and Boris via the death of Thatcher, from William Wallace’s taste for cheese to the Queen’s love of gangsta rap, Elvis kicks against the pricks and the injustices inherent in austerity Britain but still finds time to wax lyrical about the joys of whisky, Greek islands and the godforsaken rural idyll where he currently abides. His tightly written quick-fire verse, shot through with his customary moral umbrage and rhetorical power, is here annotated with his own irreverent explanatory notes highlighting the workings of his befuddled mind as he scribbled these poems from the dubious comfort of his revolting armchair at the Graceland Caravan Park. The book also features fabulous illustrations from the acclaimed artist Tony Kerins. And a poem about Vincent Van Gogh’s left ear.
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.
When Gillian Allnutt was awarded the Queen’s Gold Medal for Poetry, Carol Ann Duffy wrote that her work ‘has always been in conversation with the natural world and the spiritual life’. Her latest collection, wake, shows the two beginning to meld into one: to speak for, even as, one another. As her title signals, these are poems about looking back, keeping watch over the dying and death of an old world and the ways of being human in that world; but also forward, waiting for the new world and being ready to awaken to it when it comes. There are, as always in her work, many displaced people. No one here is fully at home in the world. These are turbulent times – individually and collectively – and the poems here reflect that. And yet the poems are more ‘among’ than ‘about’ people: speaking out of the horde, and the hoard, of humanity as a whole.
In this series, a contemporary poet advocates a poet of the past or present whom they have particularly admired. By their selection of verses and by the personal and critical reactions they express, the selectors offer intriguing insight into their own work.
Way More Than Luck is the vivid debut collection from the well-known young poet and critic Ben Wilkinson. The book opens with a series of poems that, with a remarkable clarity and sympathy, recall a battle with clinical depression: the “days when you weren’t anyone. Days gone undercover…”. The author interrogates this malady: “two-parts sadness, one-part anger”, grapples to understand that its sources are both personal and cultural. It soon emerges that competitive running, which possibly starts as therapy, a means of combat, becomes a way of life, not just for fitness but for the long-haul, for endurance. The poet finds a still, calm centre: “Running is the pure solitude of a wordless hour.”
We Need to Talk is a poetry collection on sexual violence, survivorship and solidarity. On gender-based violence and genuine social change. On things that are hushed and need to be spoken of with empathy – and fact-checking. Poet Agnes Török writes honestly and courageously about lived experience and statistical societal structure, inviting the reader to reflect and join in the conversation on how to end gender-based violence. With sections speaking directly to victims and survivors, and directly to friends and family of survivors, We Need To Talk is an empathic engagement with an experience shared by 1 in 3 women, 1 in 2 trans and non-binary people and, 1 in 5 men – sexual violence. We Need to Talk is a manifesto. A call to arms. A boiling down of statistics into the long-term effects on real people. And a roadmap for how we get out of this mess. Török speaks about the issues each of us needs to be involved in understanding and solving. The economics and politics that lead to violence becoming “normal”. The online climate in which gender-based violence becomes recreated and amplified. And the logic by which most of us personally know a victim of sexual assault or abuse, but few of us will believe we know any perpetrators. Aside from Török’s award-winning poetry, the collection also includes writing exercises for survivors of gender-based violence and their friends and family. Because making art is part of speaking. And We Need To Talk.
At university, two worlds collide. Johnny Bevan, the whip-smart, mercurial kid from a city council estate, saves Nick Burton from living his father’s safe life, but it ends tragically. Years later, a world-weary Nick is reminded of their friendship. Can Johnny save Nick again?
Tony Hoagland’s zany 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 risktaker 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. His first UK book of poems is a selection drawing on three collections, Sweet Ruin (1992), Donkey Gospel (1998) and What Narcissism Means to Me (2003). He has since published two later collections with Bloodaxe Books, with a fourth to appear in 2019.
In Wheels, Kwame Dawes brings the lyric poem face to face with the politics, natural disasters, social upheavals and ideological complexity of the world in the first part of this century. Somewhere between prophecy and meditation, this major and extensive new collection of Kwame Dawes’ work illuminates our confusing world.
These are poems of wonder and precarious elation, about learning to embrace the seemingly disparate landscapes of hermitage and court, the seemingly diverse addresses of mystery and clarity, disruption and stillness – all the roadblocks and rewards on the long dangerous route to recovering what it is to be alive and human. Wandering, digging, falling, coming to terms with unsettlement and uncertainty, finiteness and fallibility, exploring intersections between the sacred and the sensual, searching for ways to step in and out of stories, cycles and frames – these are some of the recurrent themes. These poems explore various ambivalences – around human intimacy with its bottlenecks and surprises, life in a Third World megapolis, myth, the politics of culture and gender, and the persistent trope of the existential journey (which intensifies in the new poems). Arundhathi Subramaniam’s previous book from Bloodaxe, Where I Live: Selected Poems (2009), drew on her first two books published in India plus a whole new collection. When God Is a Traveller is her fourth collection of poetry.
America’s Kim Addonizio has been called ‘one of the nation’s most provocative and edgy poets’. Her poetry is renowned both for its gritty, street-wise narrators and for a wicked sense of wit. With passion, precision and irreverent honesty, her poems explore life’s dual nature: good and evil, light and dark, joy and suffering, exposing raw emotions often only visible when truly confronting ourselves – jealousy, self-pity, fear, lust.
After inventing his own demise in Last Poems, Peter Reading unwinds with thoughts of death, dying, gluttony and community care. Work in Regress, Reading’s ﬁrst new collection since his two-volume Collected Poems, shows the controversial ‘Laureate of Grot’ in true, contrary style, turning against the idea of poetry being worth anything in the modern world at the same time as he creates angry, heartbreaking, grimly ironic poetry out of blackness and despair.
Work in Regress was shortlisted for the T.S. Eliot Prize 1997. Alan Brownjohn said of Last Poems: ‘On the evidence of this collection, nothing Reading is likely to do with this or any other project in his later years will prove mellow, or comforting, or boring’ (Sunday Times). Prophetic words. Yet in the end, despite Reading’s denials, could the fact of these new poems – written against the grain, against the odds – offer some hope against hopelessness?
Woven Landscapes is a vivid intermingling of landscapes emotional and physical, glowing colours of nature and love threaded together in a tapestry of sensual, intoxicating verse by six acclaimed poets. “Another stellar offering . . . each of the six poets anthologised here have something unique to say about the world around them and their place within it. An enlightened and illuminating collection that is a life-affirming celebration of the nature of being. This comes thoroughly recommended.” Literature Works
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.
Roddy Lumsden’s first collection Yeah Yeah Yeah is a large and varied debut collection which uses the lives of lovers and losers, eavesdroppers and entertainers to explore romance, faith and last orders at the bar. The poems are formal but with a frantic edge; they are lyrical, but laced with a cruel streak and a measured dose of indulgence. Roddy Lumsden is concerned with how relationships shift and twist and restore an order, with how people meet and part. The poems range over weddings, revenge and phobias, beer, girls and the need `to get these answers right’. Yeah Yeah Yeah was shortlisted for the Forward Prize for Best First Collection. Now out of print, most of the poems in the book are included in Mischief Night: New & Selected Poems (2004).
Barring Geoff Hattersley, you’d think most contemporary poets have never done a proper days work in their life. For me this poetic vacuum, this space walked around or avoided, leaves me unable sometimes to link myself to poetry and poets. We all work don’t we? So in, You’re So Vain You Probably Think This Book Is About You (YSVYPTTBIAY), I wanted to address this balance, to tackle work, the toad as Larkin called it, to show the vicissitudes of the work place, how employment shapes us and what it does to us. In doing this I use a sometime working class hero Crusoe whose mix of fecklessness and bad luck acts as a conduit for my own socio-political brand of Hulldonian existentialism. Either that or I just chew the fat about the workaday.
As the author, it would be completely wrong of me to tell you the subtext or underlying themes of this book, which are of course a virulent and rational hatred of Margaret Thatcher and a new blast in the re-emerging class war. So since my last book Cowboy Hat, I’ve pulled together all the poems about the toad and here they are. It’s not all work though, I can be found smashing up my old sofa in the kitchen, or telling you about Badger the Cadger, the slotterhodge blagging a free meal, or me being tied to Animal on a three legged pub crawl, or Renwick the serial chorer. Mostly it is work. You’re So Vain You Probably Think This Book Is About You, is a tribute to Bobby the TWOCKER, Ox the toilet door kettle balancing nutcase and the motley gang of wonderful workmates and workbanes I’ve had the fortune to work with. For me, a poetry book should be like a good night out with your mates, when you’re wearing a new snazzy shirt. It encompasses storytelling, drama, emotion, courage, humour and ultimately belief and spirit. Work will never diminish my spirit and my faith will remain strong. So here I come with my Northern Heart on one sleeve and my Yorkshire Soul on the other. I’ve bared my heart in this book to give you these poems. Now it’s your turn reader, chuffing eck, buy the book.