Welcome to our Recommended Reads page (compiled by Kate Birch).
Each month we will feature a small selection of books that we think are worth forming part of anyone’s library. These will usually include:
- A collection of poetry, flash fiction, short stories or word & image in hardcover or paperback
- A similar work specifically available on electronic media (Kindle)
- Something we just like (or is recommended to us.) These ‘from left field’ choices can also be fiction or non-fiction
We will not always focus on new publications and may choose instead to extol works that were published, for example, two or even 200 years ago
Recommended Reads for May 2013 Update
Who knew that poetry and bees would make such a natural union? Since we posted our RRs for May last week more suggestions have come our way and, a first for this section, we thought these demanded an update.
Our primary reason for this has been the realisation that one of the focuses of the South Banks’ London Literary Festival at the end of this month is on Bees & Nature. Look for more details here.
Melissographia by (artist) Amy Shelton and (poet) John Burnside
Taking the seminal text ‘The Life of the Bee’ by Maurice Maeterlinck …as a common reference, Shelton and Burnside created a book which offers a mind map of their engagement with the honeybee over a calendar year.
‘Melissographia’ consists of a series of new poems which are embedded within a book-form, scattered with individually embossed hand-painted pollen maps, referencing a selection of seasonal pollen loads collected by the honeybee from single plant species. ‘Melissographia’ is bound in a hand-made cover, and contains tiny botanical samples of flowers collected over the apiarist’s calendar year, which are important to sustaining the health of the honeybee.
The first limited edition (100 numbered copies) of this stunning work sold out and a second, and last, will be released this spring. John Burnside is reading (with Sean Borodale – see below)from Melissographia and a new collaborative collection– Bee Myths – at the end of May as part of the South Bank festival while Amy Shelton is doing a childrens’ workshop with Steve Benbow (featured below) on the rooftop garden of the Royal Festival Hall .
More details on Melissographia and a glimpse of some of the poems and artwork can be found here.
The Price of Gold: Poems about the Honey Bee With original artwork by Cathy Benson (Grey Hen Press)
A collection of poems celebrating honey bees. The current crisis of health in bee populations make this an important time to recognise their importance to us.
’Who more appropriate than women poets of today, with their quiet eye for detail, order, industry, living spaces, to explore that parallel world of skeps and keepers, queens and workers, lore, science, craft and myth all the way from Ljubljana to Aberdeen, down the centuries from the middle ages to our own, in a rich honeycomb of bee-poems.’ Anne-Marie Fyfe
Angela France brought this to our attention and we are intrigued. And with 50p from every sale going to research sponsored by the British Beekeepers Association, we feel it’s a no-brainer.
Recommended Reads for May 2013
We promote ourselves as being eclectic and magpie-like so we hope that you will forgive us for being a bit whimsical with the theme for our Recommended Reads this month. In part inspired by the long delayed advent of Spring in much of the Northern Hemisphere and, on a more serious note, by current campaigns to save these vital insects, our theme for May is ‘Bees’.
Hardcover or Paperback and Electronic
You might have thought it difficult to find poetry collections on this topic at all but a number came to mind almost instantly, all of them available in both hard copy and for e-readers.
Bee Journal by Sean Borodale (Jonathan Cape)
Bee Journal is a startlingly original poetry sequence: a poem-journal of beekeeping that chronicles the life of the hive, from the collection of a small nucleus on the first day to the capture of a swarm two years later. It observes the living architecture of the comb, the range and locality of the colony; its flights, flowers, water sources, parasites, lives and deaths.
These poems were written at the hive wearing a veil and gloves, and the journal is an intrinsic part of the kinetic activity of keeping bees: making ‘tiny, regular checks’ in the turn around the central figure of the sun, and minute exploratory interventions through the round of the year. The book is full of moments of revelation – particularly of the relationship between the domestic and the wild. In attempting to record and invoke something of the complexity of the relationship between ‘keeper’ and ‘kept’ it tunes ear and speech towards the ecstasy of bees, between the known and the unknown.
You don’t get closer to bees in poetry than this. Sean Borodale’s truly unique first collection has garnered a great deal of notice and seen him deservedly shortlisted for the Fenton Aldeburgh First Collection Prize, the Costa Book Awards and the TS Eliot Prize in 2012.
And David Morley, praising Bee Journal’s ‘unliterariness’ in Poetry Review 102:4 Winter 2012, declared: ‘It is gritty, wild and precise. Every sense of the poet is bent to the task of recording and responding. It is as much a psychic mission as it is a physical commission.’
Sean Borodale will be reading from Bee Journal (with John Burnside) at the London Literary Festival.
Also available on Kindle.
The Bees by Carol Ann Duffy (Picador)
As Duffy’s voice rises in this collection, her music intensifies, and every poem patterns itself into song. Woven and weaving through the book is its presiding spirit: the bee. Sometimes the bee is Duffy’s subject, sometimes it strays into the poem, or hovers at its edge – and the reader soon begins to anticipate its appearance. In the end, Duffy’s point is clear: the bee symbolizes what we have left of grace in the world, and what is most precious and necessary for us to protect. The Bees is a work of great ecological and spiritual power, and Duffy’s clearest affirmation yet of her belief in the poem as ‘secular prayer’, as the means by which we remind ourselves what is most worthy of our attention and concern, our passion and our praise.
Carol Ann Duffy’s first collection as Poet Laureate seems to have a little bit of everything in it and happily skips from the classic tales of Atlas and Leda to David Beckham’s Achilles tendon. That it is beautifully presented as well as highly accessible makes this volume a delight and a perfect gift to seduce the uninitiated into the world of poetry. A book, writes Liz Lochhead in her Guardian review, to ‘sip and dip’, rather like honey.
Available for electronic media here.
The Bee’s Knees by Roger McGough (Puffin Poetry)
A brilliant collection of… poems from ‘the patron saint of poetry’. Longer, narrative poems sit comfortably with Roger McGough’s sharper observations and insightful words in this collection, perfectly illustrated in black-and-white line by Helen Stephens.
OK, so it’s not really all about bees but, come on, it’s Roger McGough, it’s engaging and fun and it is poetry for children on a Kindle. Entice those little ones away from their Leap Frogs and Nintendos!
You can, of course, also get it in paperback.
The Urban Beekeeper is a fact-filled diary and practical guide to beekeeping that follows a year in the life of Steve and his bees and shows how keeping bees and making your own delicious honey is something anyone can do. It is a tempting glimpse into a sunlit lifestyle that starts with the first rays of the morning and ends with the warm glow of sunset, filled with oozing honeycomb, recipes for sensational honey-based dishes, and honey that tastes like sunshine.
Not a book of poetry but rather a practical work that can be read in tandem with Borodale’s Bee Journal to put a substance to the poet’s imagery. Or, if all these bee references have you hankering for a taste of honey, this book tells you how to make your own (or rather keep the bees to do it.) And you don’t need a vast country estate either! In fact the variety of pollen sources, read flowers, in the city make for a superior vintage. Also available for e-reader
And if keeping your own bees is neither practical nor desirable but you want to do something to reinvigorate their numbers, there are various campaigns out there, including those of Friends of The Earth’s The Bee Cause and the Scottish Wildlife Trust.
Recommended Reads for April 2013
Following on from World Poetry Day in March, April is National Poetry Month in both the US and Canada and, as more than fifteen per cent of our readership hails from that part of the world, we have chosen to focus our Recommended Reads there this month.
In this we have called upon the knowledge of our man in Minneapolis, James Naiden. James regularly writes reviews for IS&T as well contributing poems and essays. His third novel, The Chafings of Mortals, (PublishAmerica 2011) is a Recommended Read in itself.
Hardcover or Paperback
A collection of 107 ghazals and quasi-ghazals, with an introductory essay by the author on the rules of writing ghazals and his intent in breaking them.
With, unusually, a blurb that tells us very little, we must turn to James Naiden’s review on our site on our site for elucidation:
So what is a ghazal? Many definitions follow – more than for the sonnet’s tight waist at fourteen lines, for example. In a prefatory statement, Rezmerski includes eight rules for this ancient form started by both Persian and Arabic writers and more recently renewed by contemporary poets such as Adrienne Rich and Robert Bly. So Rezmerski uses this form, varied as it has always been – as the book’s sub-title infers – and then proceeds to use his own language instincts to portray his life, his observations, the milieus of those he has encountered since his early years in Pennsylvania.
James Naiden came across Rezmerski, the man, in a bookstore near the University of Minnesota and was given a copy of this largely ignored but excellent work. He is enthralled by this offering from a man he terms a ‘a writer of considerable import.’
Available in the UK here.
Cloves & Honey came about as the result of the author’s year-long discipline of writing a
single love poem every day—a daunting but also deeply satisfying project. The best of these poems, winnowed and reworked but as fresh as the day they were written, have been gathered here into a single volume that tracks the seasons, the various forms love can take, the ebb and flow of domestic affection, and a host of other themes captured in daily interactions with family, friends, and the surrounding countryside. In a time of anxiety and unrest, Cloves and Honey explores the mysterious power of love to heal, enliven, and inspire.
As a book of love poems written by a woman, Cloves & Honey could have made it into each of our February and March lists. It seems fitting then to offer this fine collection from Athena Kildegaard as one of our April suggestions.
Continuing in a long-established tradition of poetry excellence, the 50 poems in this collection are culled from Canadian literary magazines and journals. The handpicked selections include the best, and most current, representations of the vibrant Canadian poetry scene. This distinguished volume offers both a convenient introduction to contemporary poets in Canada and a collectible yearbook for seasoned poetry readers.
One in a series of annual round-ups of Canadian Poetry from Tightrope Books. The co-editors are, according to James, ‘long-established writers who have tried and succeeded, I think, in making thoughtful choices about “current” Canadian poetry. A very useful gathering of superb writing!’
Contributors include Margaret Atwood, David O’Meara and P.K. Page
In addition to James’ suggestions above, we thought it worthwhile to take a look at those US and Canadian collections available in a Kindle-style format. While by no means comprehensive or even representing any kind of systematic selection, these works do prove that there is quite a bit out there for the technologically savvy.
The Door by Margaret Atwood
Gutted by Evie Christie
The Book of Longing by Leonard Cohen
And from the Laurier Poetry series:
From Room to Room: The Poetry of Eli Mandel edited by Peter Webb
Other poets in this series include George Elliot Clarke & Tim Lilburn
David Lehman (Author, Editor) & Robert Pinsky (Author, Foreword)
The Complete Collected Poems by Maya Angelou
Howl, Kaddish and Other Poems (Penguin Modern Classics) by Allen Ginsberg
Later Poems Selected and New: 1971-2012 by Adrienne Rich
And from the Wesleyan Poetry Series:
My Life and My Life in the Nineties by Lyn Hejinian
Recommended Reads for March 2013
‘I am woman, hear me roar…’
The 8th March is International Women’s Day and to mark it we are devoting our Recommended Reads this month to works by women about women. But the opposite sex should not be put off. These books are worth considering by anyone.
Hardcover or Paperback
Petrol by Martina Evans
Imelda thinks she’s killed her mother by wishing she was dead. Haunted, she doesn’t want to wish the same fate on Justin, her mercurial and controlling twice-widowed father, owner of McConnell’s bar and shop. When Imelda’s two older sisters, Bertha and Agnes disapprove of Justin’s young fiancé, Clodagh, Justin butters up naïve Imelda and elevates her to the position of temporary favourite.
Petrol is a prose poem disguised as a novella of adolescence in Co. Cork, Ireland. With its dizzy pace and perfect narrative timing it is a unique work and a remarkable departure for a writer whose poetry is widely appreciated for its humour and uncompromising depiction of rural Ireland.
When we initially saw Maria C McCarthy’s recent review of ‘Petrol’, we knew we had to read this book. And once we had read it we knew that it had to be a Recommended Read. The unique narrative style, the perfectly captured voice of a vulnerable 13-year-old heroine negotiating her place in the world via a difficult father, jealous sisters and an all too charming 19-year-old ‘beau’ culminates in a work that has been described by Bernard O’Donoghue as ‘a masterpiece: deeply original and inspired.’
Also available on Amazon.
Redgrove’s Wife by Penelope Shuttle
[This] is a book of lament and celebration. Its focus is the life and death of her husband, the poet Peter Redgrove, coupled with the loss of her father. Here, grief, depression and ageing are confronted with painful directness, but transformed into life-affirming and redemptive poetry…Redgrove’s Wife offers an extraordinary range of different kinds of poetry: both sensuous and ceremonial, elegiac and erotic, visionary and playful
Penelope Shuttle writes from the opposite end of life to adolescence. As her husband declined through Parkinson’s, arthritis and diabetes, she moved from wife to carer and ultimately to widow, at times having to cope with her own depression and anger. Her poems during this period, as she puts it, took as ‘their task the search for a renewal of life during difficult circumstances. How to go on loving the world, which is what a poet is for, when it deals you severe blows, forcing you to give up much of what gives life its energy and delight.’
Deservedly shortlisted for both the Forward and T.S. Eliot Prizes
The Knife Drawer by Padrika Tarrant
In the house where Marie lives, the cutlery is running wild …
Madness and fairy story creep hand in hand in this darkly comic tale. At the top of a narrow driveway there is a shambling Victorian house full of dust and stairs. The walls inside are ancient emulsion, sloughing off the distemper walls in gorgeous ribbons.
The mice that infest the dining room chimney-breast are living out their own dreams and nightmares, learning voodoo and the meaning of love and forgiveness. In The Knife Drawer, dead bodies miraculously vanish as if scraped to nothing by pudding spoons.
Marie’s mother has rather lost her wits since she did away with her husband. She could swear they’re out to get her; even the house gets messy on purpose, all by itself. Marie’s twin is living in a hole in the back-garden, small and round as a cherry pip, waiting to be discovered.
In ‘The Knife Drawer’ the steak knives grow so hungry that they scream. When the children murder the rent man, things get a little out of hand …
When Sarah Bower reviewed this ‘compelling’ novel in 2011 , she discovered many layers and multiple readings. Is it the tale of a single mother with girl twins and her neglect and lack of grip on reality? Has an abusive partner left her or has she killed him and sealed his body up in the Dining Room? And what about a cutlery drawer gone rogue and a mouse civilisation gone stratospheric? This is, Bower concludes, a book ‘best read in a single sitting, without coming up from its contaminated air, or in very small doses. Either way, it will haunt your dreams.’ We agree. We also think you will need to read it again and again.
And for those of you missing our Electronic section – it will be back – consider the Kindle version of Padrika Tarrant’s collection of short stories, Broken Things, which is a true precursor of The Knife Drawer
Here are voices lost inside themselves, where the world is lopsided and nothing may be trusted. A kitchen knife crawls after a little girl to keep her safe and an old lady hears her mother calling from a cupboard
And, if you didn’t know already, the thrice-yearly Magma Poetry magazine is now also available on Kindle.
Recommended Reads for February 2013
Ah February, the month of love, and one would think that it would be easy to find a treasure trove of that most romantic of literary genres, poetry. But are there collections out there that avoid the sickly sweetness of the greeting card but can still ‘lift the heart to rapture’? We sent out requests for suggestions through Facebook and Twitter and this is what came back to us
Hardcover or Paperback
In powerful nocturnal encounters silent visitors travel from the dark world, take on elemental form and embrace Rees’s narrators with sensual and erotic urgency. Laced with tales of physical transformations, Rees’s use of fairy stories and night visions radically reimagines the female experience through the psychic collisions of the body and our desires.
The title sequence of this, frankly, seductive collection was transformed into a 35-minute live performance for voice and harp which toured in the NW England in 2008 and was revived briefly at The Magpie’s Nest in Islington in 2010. Reading Eliza and the Bear makes you long for another such revival.
Suggested by Angela Topping
Love Poems by Ian Parks suggested by Angela Topping
The New Faber Book of Love Poems, edited by James Fenton and recommended by Ann Drysdale (‘An anthology that ‘takes some beating.’)
The fifty poems in Billy’s Rain chart the course of a love affair, now ended. Its complications, obsessions, evasions, secret joys and emotional pitfalls are explored with all the subtlety and irony of which Hugo Williams, among contemporary poets, is the acknowledged master. These are brilliant, wry and moving elegies for a love affair.
Who could possibly resist such lines as ‘the smell/of television lingering in the morning like a quarrel’ from this evocative 1999 TS Eliot award winning collection?
Suggested by Tony Vowles
Boss Cupid by Thom Gunn, recommended by Anna Percy who suggested ‘anything by [the poet], he writes intimacy beautifully.’ We chose this one because, despite a cycle of poems subtitled ‘songs for Jeffrey Dahmer’, it is all about love and desires.
Our ‘Left Field’ Choice
Off and on, during the entire period they were together, Gertrude and Alice wrote each other little love notes. Calling her “wifey” and most often addressing her as “baby precious,” Stein scribbled her love for Toklas in quick moments of unselfconscious desire, notes that are small but significant testimonies to her long-lived love. And on occasion, Toklas penned or typed letters back to her “husband.”
These notes are brief, mantra-like enticements: tender, beseeching, caring and confessing, funny and game, sexually-charged and sincere, quotidian and queer, but always passionate. Each one marks the pleasures–infrequently, the pains–of married love. When fitted together, the notes create a tantalizing mosaic of a marriage between two women that was built to last.
It was an essay by the Poetry Foundation’s Joel Brouwer that first put us onto these and not because they are in fact great literary pieces. (‘A wag’ Brouwer suggests’ might say that Stein wrote them after she was finished writing, so they’re not literature at all.’) What they are is a captivating and intensely personal testament to a great love and as such worthy, as are all our recommendations, of a Valentine’s read.
Recommended Reads for January 2013
We are making like a glossy magazine this month and publishing our January 2013 recommended reads well before the end of December.
Hardcover or Paperback
In the Land of the Giants: Selected Children’s Poems by George Szirtes
George Szirtes’ children’s poems comprise riddles, mysteries and parables, strange encounters, cautionary tales, and meditations on just about everything under the sun — from the sea’s hands to the wind’s face. All Szirtes’ technical virtuosity is on display, the music, rhyme and cadence fusing together with an Eastern European sensibility to provide a unique collection that will be treasured by all children and not a few adults.
It’s not too late to get this wonderful collection from Salt Publishing before Christmas. When Hilary Mellon reviewed it earlier in December, she defied anyone to be able to pick it up and then walk away without buying it and we agree. The best things for children, be they films, plays or novels should always capture an adult’s imagination as this does so completely. As Hilary puts it ‘With Christmas approaching take that 7+ literally and buy a copy for everyone on your shopping list who’s over 7. And buy one also for anyone under 7 and keep it for them to grow into.’
Shakespeare’s 154 sonnets, dealing with themes such as the passage of time, love, beauty and mortality, really need no introduction.
When isn’t it a time for Shakespeare? However, the inclusion of this edition of the sonnets as a recommended read now is an acknowledgement that not all of you will be looking at this before Christmas and may instead be perusing this page during the dark days of January. The credit cards are maxed out and those bits and pieces of loose cash that normally lie around have all been gathered up. But this is free. Absolutely and completely free.
And if you have still not been given a Kindle or similar as a Christmas present, then you can find the complete sonnets here.
Alhambra Poetry Calendar 2013 edited by Shafiq Naz
365 poems by more than 300 poets – a desk calendar and a poetry anthology in one. Start the day with a poem: discover poems by both well-established and emerging contemporary poets, and rediscover familiar and favorite poems by classic poets. Poetry from different historical periods and styles from the 14th century to the 21st century. Encounter a wide range of poetic genres and forms. Poems about love and passion, family and friendship, happiness and loss, birth and death, youth and aging, the natural world and contemporary city life. A new feature this year: many poems are accompanied by commentary by their respective authors.
Our ‘other’ choice for January is, appropriately, a calendar. In addition to classic luminaries like Blake, Byron, a pair of Brontes, Donne, Hardy and even Henry VIII, it features a number of contemporary IS&T favourites such as Ian Duhig, D. Nurske, Pascale Petit, Penelope Shuttle and George Szirtes. There is even a poem from one Helen Ivory. The calendar can be ordered from Amazon.com with postal rates (from around £5-20 for the UK) dependent on how quickly you want it. In the US you can also find it here.
And there is a version for young readers, too.
Recommended Reads for December 2012
We have a slightly extended selection this month what with it being the festive season. Go on treat someone or, even better, treat yourself. You’ll feel better about the inevitable socks or bath salts.
Hardcover or Paperback
The Frost Fairs by John McCullough
The Frost Fairs is a compassionate book with a global and historical scope, tackling science and city life from a range of surreal yet poignant angles. It explores love in many forms, from modern transatlantic relationships to hidden gay and cross-gendered lives from the past…The array of voices here is striking: taxi drivers report their most outlandish fares and hermaphrodite statues flirt with observers; abandoned lovers watch frost fairs melting on the Thames and drag queens revel in the freedoms afforded by the Blitz.
How could we not recommend this wonderful collection? Having just won the 2012 Polari First Book Prize and been singled out by both The Observer and The Independent, it would have been folly to ignore it.
Modern Love by Max Wallis
In his début pamphlet, Max Wallis traces the yearlong course of a love affair and all its constituent parts: sex and sensuality, longing and loneliness, desire and disappointment, heady beginnings and inevitable endings; in a world dominated by high street brands, text messaging and social media. Featuring trademark acrobatics with language in an attempt to grapple with this fast, feisty world, Modern Love recasts love in a sincere, vivacious voice.
Given its subject, you might think we would hold off recommending this collection until February but this was the second poetry book shortlisted for the Polari Prize this year and, as such, we feel Modern Love deserves to be acknowledged now.
Also available on Kindle.
Life Saving: Why We Need Poetry – Introductions to Great Poets by Josephine Hart
Josephine Hart, author of the bestselling novel Damage, had what she called ‘a long love affair’ with poetry.
In the late 1980s, Hart…began a hugely popular event in which actors read the words of the great poets to an enraptured audience. In 2004, The Josephine Hart Poetry Hour moved to the British Library, where it remains today. By her own admission, Josephine Hart gave ‘dead poets society’. But she also gave them intelligent and exciting introductions; all of which are now collected here in this volume. They are insightful, even great, works in their own right.
Those of us who write and/or love poetry are all too familiar with the glazed look that can come over a friend or acquaintance’s eyes when you mention the word. Why is it that he who adores stand-up comedy will run miles in the other direction rather than go to a poetry slam or she who thrives on the most experimental ‘experimental theatre’ turns her nose up at a poet’s one-man show? Life Saving helps remind us why poetry matters.
Also available in hardcover.
Answering Back: Living Poets Reply to the Poetry of the Past edited by Carol Ann Duffy
Carol Ann Duffy has asked some of the brightest lights in the poetry world to choose a poem that is meaningful — or has meant something — to them, and write a response to it. With up-and-coming poets alongside more established names, and original poems alongside the new works they’ve inspired, Answering Back promises to be a truly unique anthology; from old favourites to modern classics, it will be a collection everyone can respond to.
Answering Back also harks back to poets of the past but takes the novel approach of using them as inspiration for contemporary work. Published the year before Duffy was made Poet Laureate and including such luminaries as Wendy Cope, Penelope Shuttle and Roger McGough, it can encourage reflection or even, as in Carol Rumens response to Larkin’s ‘This Be The Verse’, simply make us laugh out loud.
Also available in paperback.
The Song of Lunch by Christopher Reid
Lunch in Soho with a former lover – but Zanzotti’s is under new management, and as the wine takes effect fond memories give way to something closer to the bone. A mock-elegy for the heady joys of old-time Soho, The Song of Lunch displays the full range of Christopher Reid’s wit, craft and human sympathy.
When the film dramatisation of The Song of Lunch was screened with an accompanying discussion at Aldeburgh Poetry Festival this year, it proved a huge hit. Available in both paperback and Kindle formats, the book is definitely worth a read. But what makes it our left field choice is the fact that you can now buy the film featuring Alan Rickman and Emma Thompson on DVD from Amazon. All is not completely well however as the DVD format is Region 1, which essentially means it is limited to players and TVs configured to North American standards. Further investigation however reveals that there is a version that can now be downloaded onto electronic media. So if you are based in the US or Canada, have the proper set-up elsewhere or have invested in a Kindle Fire or the like, we encourage you to give it a go.
Recommended Reads for November 2012
Hardcover or Paperback
House of the Deaf Man by Andrea Porter and Tom de Freston
Artist Tom de Freston and poet Andrea Porter explore the dark images Goya created on the walls of his house Quinta del Sordo (The House of the Deaf Man) in the last few years of his life. Using these paintings as a touchstone both artist and poet create a world in which Goya’s ‘Black Paintings’ provide a vital and significant link between the present and the past.
The House of the Deaf Man becomes a space where a strange Master of Ceremonies guides you past walls that talk and a woman carries a severed head through a supermarket. In this house a mad band plays on as a man hangs a spoon from his nose and all the king’s and bankers’ horses come tumbling down.
We’ve previously posted a poem from this collection and reviewed it but we keep coming back to (as our reviewer put it) this ‘delightfully perverse act of ventriloquism’ because we have a bit of an obsession with Word and Image at IS&T and this is some of the best of its kind.
Andrea will also be appearing at Aldeburgh Poetry Festival this year, where she will be participating in one of the IS&T-supported Short Takes, ‘speaking for herself’ on the theme of ‘Poetry as a Lifeline.’ In addition, our new postcard (available at the Festival) will feature a poem from her first collection A Season of Small Insanities, the final section of which deals with ‘personal trauma and loss’: This is the mirror we would rather walk away from and yet the scalpel-like precision of each word, the light touch of the language beckons us in as if we already know that the ‘you’ watched in this sequence could easily be us, if we happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time.
Breaking Silence by Jacob Sam-La Rose
It is a collection that sits on the threshold between the personal and the profound, with eyes on race and dual heritage; masculinity and manhood; definitions and senses of self. Above all, it’s a collection that’s invested in the power of the voice, in the work of giving a voice to issues and entities that would otherwise remain silent.
Published by Bloodaxe Books, this excellent work has been nominated for the Aldeburgh First Collection Prize (as well the Forward Prize for Best First Collection) thus ensuring its place on our list. Moreover, as we are obviously in favour of seeing as much poetry as possible available on electronic media, it is encouraging to see first collections available in this format.
(Also available in paperback.)
In Their Own Words: Contemporary Poets on their Poetry edited by Helen Ivory & George Szirtes
A celebration of the variousness of contemporary poets living and writing in the UK today. 56 poets talk about their own poetic voices and their work.
Yes, we are being blatantly nepotistic again and proud of it. Connected to this work through our shared editor Helen Ivory, IS&T can only hope to bask in its reflective glory. That it is joint edited by one of the UK’s foremost poets, George Szirtes, only enhances its value. If you are teaching, studying, writing or reading contemporary poetry, this needs to be on your bookshelf.
Contributors include Patience Agbabi, Ian Duhig, Vicki Feaver, Ira Lightman, Eather Morgan and Penelope Shuttle.
Recommended Reads for October 2012
Hardcover or Paperback
Whistle by Martin Figura
When Martin was nine years old, his father killed his mother. Whistle is a sequence of poems, neither sentimental nor melodramtic, that leads up to that event and follows on with its consequences. Whistle is a tale told with tenderness, humour and bravery through a photographer’s eye and has been described as ‘riveting’, ‘magnificent’ and ‘remarkable. It has also evolved into an ‘astonishing’ stage production.
Martin is effectively one of the IS&T family being married to editor Helen Ivory but that does not mean we are recommending his collection on nepotism alone. And if you don’t believe that, then check out Penelope Shuttle’s review on IS&T.
And while you can, catch the stage version. Having already played at Edinburgh in the summer of 2011 and at the Roundhouse in London last spring, Martin is taking Whistle on what could possibly be its last tour of the UK. For details go here.
Pitch: Poems by Todd Boss
With poems about loss, home, marriage, and the inner music of our lives, Pitch is a series of variations on an overturned piano. By turns bright and dark like the keys on a keyboard, these poems demonstrate the range of one of contemporary poetry’s most musical poets, a master of internal rhyme.
A tour de force from this son of the American Midwest and enthusiastically reviewed here by IS&T’s James Naiden: ‘ We read his poetry to see how our pulse is doing – collectively, then in each of us, among these stringently woven images.’
The Lighthouse by Alison Moore (Kindle edition)
The Lighthouse begins on a North Sea ferry, on whose blustery outer deck stands Futh, a middle-aged, recently separated man heading to Germany for a restorative walking holiday.
Spending his first night in Hellhaus at a small, family-run hotel, he finds the landlady hospitable but is troubled by an encounter with an inexplicably hostile barman.
In the morning, Futh puts the episode behind him and sets out on his week-long circular walk along the Rhine. As he travels, he contemplates his childhood; a complicated friendship with the son of a lonely neighbour; his parents’ broken marriage and his own. But the story he keeps coming back to, the person and the event affecting all others, is his mother and her abandonment of him as a boy, which left him with a void to fill, a substitute to find.
He recalls his first trip to Germany with his newly single father. He is mindful of something he neglected to do there, an omission which threatens to have devastating repercussions for him this time around.
At the end of the week, Futh, sunburnt and blistered, comes to the end of his circular walk, returning to what he sees as the sanctuary of the Hellhaus hotel, unaware of the events which have been unfolding there in his absence.
Universally praised, this first novel is a no-brainer for our ‘left field’ recommendation this month. We have close links with Salt and it is so refreshing to see an independent publisher with a book that was shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize (2012). That it failed to win cannot take away from what a superb work of fiction this is.