Friday, 19 January 2018


Scroll down on the right of this page, through Events, News and Recently Published and you will discover that there's a new list of Twelve Books You Must Read.

As usual this is a subjective, opinionated selection of some of the poetry books I have read over the past year.  Books that I have enjoyed and/or been challenged by.  

Limiting myself to twelve means that there are some notable omissions.  In particular four of my favourite poets - so I'll mention them here, which is a cheat's way of omitting them from the list.  Michael Longley Angel Hill, Philip Gross A Bright Acoustic, Thomas A Clark Farm by the Shore, Les Murray On Bunyah.

Here's the new list with accompanying 'puff':

R S Thomas Too Brave to Dream - a posthumous collection of poems written as a response to various art works (which are reproduced with the poems).  All the hallmarks of the poetry of R S Thomas - economy, simplicity, and those intuitive fractured line breaks.

Myra Schneider Insisting on Yellow: New and Selected Poems - readable, imaginative poems. 'Emotionally vulnerable, richly allusive and superbly poised between past and present' (Jane Holland).

Richard Price Moon for Sale - a roller coaster of emotions.  Witty, clever, funny, sexy, heart-stopping. You never know what is coming next.

Tom Pickard Winter Migrants - there is a distinctly northern feel (Pennines and Solway Firth) to this alert and original collection with its 'mercury whisper of tipped-in light'. 

Sinead Morrissey On Balance - another fine accomplished volume from Sinead Morrissey.  Is there anything this poet can't write about?  Is there any form she can't use?

Geoffrey Hill Clavics - read it to honour the memory of a great English poet (died 2016).  Beautifully crafted poems in shape and rhyme.  Hill is never an easy read but his work is a worthwhile intellectual challenge.

John Glenday The Golden Mean - there's a haunting quality of tone and content to these honed short poems without losing any of their edginess.  Includes powerful, sometimes shocking, translations from contemporary Iraqi poets who deserve to be heard beyond their own country.

Angela France The Hill - psychogeography meets poetry in these varied succinct poems (some with fine surreptitious partial rhymes) on the history and life of Leckhampton Hill near Cheltenham.  A wonderful and strange read.  'An essential contribution to the literature of landscape' (Claire Crowther).

Helen Dunmore Inside the Wave - how Helen Dunmore treasured life even as she lived in the shadow of death.  Poems of great depth expressed with clarity - if you read nothing else by this writer, read this.

Gillian Clarke Zoology - a bumper (by poetry standards!) 100 pages of poetry divided into six sections, including 'One Year' (the cycle of the seasons at Hafod y Llan farm in Snowdonia) and a final section of moving and powerful elegies.

Gerry Cambridge Notes for Lighting a Fire - uses the theme of light of explore 'desire, possession and memory' (HappenStance blurb).

Ruth Bidgood Black Mountains/Land Music - attractively produced back-to-back volume.  Here is the familiar Bidgood territory of a rural Welsh hinterland of deserted hills, empty lanes, ruined houses.  It is the loneliness of places where people seem to have withdrawn. She values this often overlooked landscape.

So there it is - now read on.

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