Kevin Young’s accomplished collection of poems, Stones, moves with deliberate pace, an anodyne for those who have lost someone they will always love. The language is delicate and gentle—yet provocative in word and manner. In his review for The New York Times, David Orr describes Stones as a book about how families absorb and repurpose loss. Stones embraces grief by examining the root likeness of our ancestry—the way we grow into and out from our inheritance.
Neuropsychologist Paul Broks combines an exploration of consciousness and mortality, framed within a personal experience of losing his wife to cancer. He warns the reader it is a ‘rambling, ramshackle house they’re about to enter’ where ‘fact sits alongside fiction’ and ‘science tangles with myth’. Acknowledging a shared human fragility, he intersperses descriptions of patients with neurological disorders who ’inhabit the twilight zones of the mind’ with a meandering series of visits to some of his own.
There’s an old adage that our pupils teach us far more than they are taught. The former teacher in me doesn’t quarrel with that, and nor, apparently, does Hannah Lowe. Drawn from her own ten years’ teaching in ‘an inner-city London sixth form’, the book erupts with classroom vibrancy, without confining itself to in-school tales.
Phenotypes offers readers a fascinating eye into the complicated inner-workings of Latin America’s, and specifically Brazil’s, racial injustices in a way that those within the Anglosphere of literature can understand.
Award-winning poet Nathan Shepherdson guides us atomically through the universe (the entirety of matter and space) where one man – Romanian-born German-language poet and translator Paul Celan – weighs the depth and demand of his relationship with poetry and familial love.
In response to an old Blues song performed by Geeshie Wiley, Peter Riley has brought together established poets of varying styles. Notwithstanding a spelling error, a misdate and some distracting formatting, Riley and his troop have created a muddy-watered pool for the reader to lounge in.
Writer Kieran Hurley and director Finn den Hertog bring Henrik Ibsen into the 21st century with an electric retelling of An Enemy of the People, simply titled The Enemy. The setting is an unnamed Scottish town, but the kind most readers will be familiar with – the ‘once proud’ variety of industrial town now sunken into multi-generational poverty.
Maria Stepanova has been a popular and prolific poet, essayist and journalist in Russia for many years, but 2021 was the year her work was brought to the English-speaking world. In Memory of Memory is one of three books published in translation this year; a poetry collection War of the Beasts and the Animals (Bloodaxe) and The Voice Over, a collection of poems and essays (Columbia University Press).
In this most innovative of collections, Notes on the Sonnets, epigraphs taken from the first lines of Shakespeare’s sonnets are conjoined, non-sequentially, with lines of prose poetry. These convey thoughts as digressive, associative and reflexive as any creative prose essay – in the Paul Klee sense of ideas being taken for a walk – lines that contain vestiges of the original tropes only recustomised for the 21st Century.
We have been reading Roland Barthes’ explorations of image and memory in our writing classes. Photographs record the presence of someone “that has been”, but they also express a “temporal hallucination”, like a severed limb whose presence is felt viscerally, an after effect of amputation. This return to a time past in the present moment is beautifully imagined in Honorifics. Miller is Malaysian-American now resident in Scotland, and her debut collection renders loss and separation as memorable, lingering encounters, almost hallucinatory yearnings of leaving and homecoming.