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.
Choman Hardi’s Considering the Women explores the equivocal relationship between immigrants and their homeland – the constant push and pull – as well as the breakdown of an intermarriage, and the plight of women in an aggressive patriarchal society and as survivors of political violence. The book’s central sequence, Anfal, draws on Choman Hardi’s post-doctoral research on women survivors of genocide in Kurdistan. The stories of eleven survivors (nine women, an elderly man and a boy child) are framed by the radically shifting voice of the researcher: naïve and matter-of-fact at the start; grieved, abstracted and confused by the end. Knowledge has a noxious effect in this book, destroying the poet’s earlier optimistic sense of self and replacing it with a darker identity where she is ready for ‘all the good people in the world to disappoint her’. Hardi’s second collection in English ends with a new beginning found in new love and in taking time off from the journey of traumatic discovery to enjoy the small, ordinary things of life. ‘The courage of this book – her refusal to to be daunted by the context of its cataclysmic scale – is impossible to ignore and perhaps the book’s principal driving force. Such fortitude is at its most tangible in the book’s focal sequence, Anfal… The horror of the subject matter is counterbalanced by the humility of her poems. Humility is a rare commodity among poets but Hardi, in her economy of utterance, yields not an inch to the showy, exploitative or sensational. The language is trimmed back, its wings clipped, its phrase-making curfewed… genocide requires its own poetry of witness, but also the sort of plain speaking integrity which inheres in Considering the Women… Choman Hardi is no tourist poet, or well meaning writer in residence in a women’s prison: she is chronicler of catastrophe, and gives up all her talent to the subject, all her tact; it feels like an act of sacrifice.’ – Tim Liardet & John Burnside, Poetry Book Society Bulletin ‘Another contender for this year’s Forward poetry prize, Kurdish writer and translator Choman Hardi’s collection Considering the Women explores the eternal push and pull relationship between immigrants and their homeland(s), as well as considers the plight of women in a patriarchal society and as survivors of political violence. An important voice now more than ever, Hardi brings us closer to the experiences of those for whom we all too often assume to speak.’ – The Skinny (Best Summer Reads) ‘At a time when the British media is full of the terrible results of events in the Middle East… Choman Hardi’s poetry puts us directly among the people living and suffering through it all, hearing their voices and sharing their experiences….There are any number of places in the school curriculum where this poetry would prove illuminating, and it really should be read.’ – Frank Startup, The School Librarian ‘Considering the Women is impressive in the sense that it leaves its dent upon the reader. I came away from my first reading dizzied, imbalanced and ashamed in a way which I have not felt since first encountering the work of Primo Levi. The collection delivers snatched fragments of the Kurdish story to an Anglophone audience and enacts the uncomfortable yoking of an adopted nationality with fading memories of a crumbling homeland. The grainy footage of barren Middle-Eastern landscapes which make cameos in UK news reports are hereby superseded, through Hardi, by the unflinching force of human testimony.’ – Phil Brown, The Huffington Post
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.
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.
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.
‘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.