…Nine poetry collections
Poetry only seems to be growing in popularity in recent years, with the surge of a new generation of poets finding fame on Instagram, and the spoken word and slam scenes taking the world by storm. From old hands to new favourites, here are some of my highlights from this vintage year in poetry publishing.
Jackie Kay – Bantam
Scots Makar Jackie Kay brings us her first collection since she took the title, and it doesn’t disappoint. Kay looks at her family life across three generations – hers, her father’s, and her paternal grandfather’s, for a collection both intimate in detail and wide in scope. This is a book about fighting spirit in trying times; a work we need this year more than ever.
Anne Carson – Float
This collection of twelve booklets, to be read in any order, is a delight that brings in all of Carson’s strengths; her seamless merging of classical myth with postmodern restructuring; her wit; her talent not only with phrasing but with inventive use of form. Every reading order brings a new, fresh perspective; literally one to be read again and again.
Emily Berry – Stranger, Baby
A startling mix of tenderness, wit and grief, Berry’s second collection cements her as one to watch. Dealing in sharp detail with the death of her mother, Stranger, Baby is starkly personal, highly intelligent and filled to the brim with the dark, gentle wit of grief.
Sophie Collins – small white monkeys
A ‘fragmented essay’ on selfhood and shame, small white monkeys mixes images, poetry and prose to create a protracted portrait of the author’s relationship with shame. Written during a residency at Glasgow Women’s Library, Collins incorporates materials from the library’s archives and draws upon the work of women creators past and present in a work that engages with self and the history of women’s thought in a sharply unique way.
Penguin Modern Poets Three
The recently revived ‘Penguin Modern Poets’ series should be the first port of call for those with their eyes on poetry’s emerging brightest and best. Titled ‘Your Family, Your Body’, PMP3 brings together American icon Sharon Olds with emerging young Brits Malika Booker and Warsan Shire, for a broad-ranging collection on country, selfhood, and the curiosity of inhabiting a body.
Denise Riley – Say Something Back
Riley brings her genius turn of phrase and eye for curious, startling images to the subject of the death of her adult son, in a collection which expands from its centre in grief to a sprawling, fascinating range of concepts and ideas; death, speech, language, light, nature, reaching, comfort and security all merge in a collection which spirals round the darkest of subjects with the lightest, most imaginative touch.
Emily Wilson – The Odyssey (Translation)
The first ever translation of Homer’s epic into English by a woman, with a focus of clean, crisp language and written in iambic pentameter, the classic verse form of the English epic, Wilson’s translation is uniquely urgent, sharp and devoid of pomposity; a fresh and necessary eye of one of the world’s oldest surviving works of literature.
Yrsa Daley-Ward – Bone
One of Instagram’s rising poetry stars, Daley-Ward’s poems are soft, sharp and survivalist; short and witty observations on womanhood, race, love and living that have taken social media readers by storm.
Simon Armitage – The Unaccompanied
The latest collection from the British national treasure evokes a world in chaos; the grotesqueries of global warming and the shocks of social and economic meltdown. Ricocheting from melting ice-caps to the Yorkshire moors to the aisles of Poundland, Armitage’s refreshingly unpretentious sharpness provides a pleasingly new eye on our world in the process of turning upside-down.
Words by Clare Patterson