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.
From the moors of northern England to the cities of Western Europe, the poplars of the Thames to the sands of the Nevada desert, the poems in Kidland rise from ancient landscapes to confront a society in denial about its relationship with nature, memory and destiny. On barrows and mountains, in yellow fields and green woods, Kidland offers up a radical, uncompromising vision of broken connections and darkening futures. Images, dreams and prophecies, human and inhuman, dominate the pages of Paul Kingsnorth’s debut collection, finding their fullest expression in the narrative title poem, in which reason meets wildness among the dark pines of the north, and certainties are broken like empty promises.
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.
Courting Katie explores tenuous notions of what it means to be Irish. This is a collection about drunken nights, about cranes, outbound flights, and confirmation parties. Situated within a range of pre- and post-Celtic Tiger contexts, it examines social and cultural crises, both local and national. These poems engage with the experience of Ireland, not simply in a grandiose manner, but through the individual, and the many disappointments that have been suffered on this island.
‘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.
“At the multi-laned intersection to the M20 I listened to Alanis singing her heart out about the pain of isolation and loss and I burst into tears in an Oxford Green Jaguar X Series 3 litre car.”
Like missiles, these poems shoot out into the world seeking light and warmth from out of the darkness of illness. Peter Carr’s poetic voice mirrors the fast-paced juxtopositions of a life previously spent in an internationalist world of commerce. Wide-ranging and uncompromising, ironic, darkly comedic and sometimes bitter, and populated by the unconventional, the displaced and the lonely, the collection is nevertheless bound together by the realisation and need of the importance of human encounter, companionship and love in an illusory and earth-shifting world. – Maggie Harris