I picked up this title initially because I still blanche whenever my daughter shows me her new tattoos; but I also heard Helen Mort’s very interesting exchange with Lou Hopper about ‘getting inked’ on Radio 4’s One to One in February last year. Mort is, of course, an award-winning poet that is based in Sheffield and whose interests take in an astonishing range–mountain climbing, trail running, northern cites, conflict and motherhood—all handled with a sure and delicate lyricism, and a poet’s ear for the cadence and fall of the line. So The Illustrated Woman promised much.
There are cracks running visibly through the poems in Cain Named the Animal. From reading reviews of American poet Shane McCrae’s earlier collections, National Book Award Finalist In the Language of My Captor and T S Eliot prize shortlisted Sometimes I Never Suffered, cracks persist throughout them too as well as no punctuation with space instead serving as a kind of punc- tuation coupled with stumbling repetitions stumbling and the odd / line break depicted odd as you would write it in an essay or review. it is an arresting device and one that initially to me, initially was a distraction seeming to get i n the way of me hearing the poems in my head.
The sonnet is a design classic; it retains its formal appeal, with contemporary giants such as Don Paterson and Imtiaz Dharker regularly inspired by its elegance and infinite variety. Trinidadian poet Anthony Joseph has used the form to explore his relationship with his father and with himself across a sequence of more than 50 poems.
Stephanie Sy-Quia (Granta Poetry, 2021); pbk; £10.99 Amnion is the membrane which protects an embryo during pregnancy. Amnion by Stephanie Sy-Quia thrums with potential energy. Although shortlisted for the Forward Poetry Award, it is fluid in form, moving between poetry, essay and autofiction. Biography serves as a throughline, as Sy-Quia traces back her lineage, across Read More
Jeanette L. Clariond’s The Goddess of Water transmogrifies reality, bringing the reader into her world and holding them long after they have left the book behind. Clariond has published many collections and her ability to not only write poetry but craft it into such a deliberate, thoughtful structure speaks to her experience. Every page proves a maze, drawing the reader in and leading them through the rich tapestry of Aztec myth, spoken with striking lyricism and intertwined skilfully with the all too contemporary subject of femicide and gendered violence in South America.
Based on a thirteen-poem series, The Wilds is a powerful poetry comic – written by Russell Jones and illustrated by Aimee Lockwood – connects the themes of grief, the natural world, and survival. It explores the experience of a teenage girl coming to terms with the death of her mother, understanding that loss is never easy but can be survived.
Dead fridges, dragon-slaying horses and zombies welcome you to Holly Hopkins’ The English Summer, a wonderfully imaginative debut. Whilst remaining fantastical and playful, this collection dissects the roots of humanity and its relationship to our planet at large. Reimagining historical myths and traditions with an urbane sense of familiarity, Hopkins’ collection deracinates contemporary Englanders amidst a growing climate crisis. Reading these poems is like looking into an essential truth. Through both humour and accusation, storytelling from unique and unthinkable angles, Hopkins underscores the impending tragedy that is modern life.
None of the poems in this, Kim Moore’s more recent collection, have formal titles. Numbers, yes, and the contents’ list identifies them by their opening words. The acknowledgements credit sources as diverse as Hélène Cixous, Thomas Hardy, Adrienne Rich and Rainer Maria Rilke, but in the opening poem, ‘We are coming’, it’s impossible not to see a baton already being passed from Sylvia Plath; soon after it’s hard to avoid shades of Carol Ann Duffy’s Red Riding Hood, or to hear Hilaire Belloc’s ‘waterfall of doom’ building its inevitable force. The tributaries are indeed wide-ranging, which seems entirely in keeping with the complex and very painful issues Moore has the bravery to explore. Rarely has it been more important to read a poetry collection in the sequence the poet has ordered; there are no lines to be skimmed.
From the pages of Harry Guest’s collection of poetry emerge forests, fields of grass, Norwegian fjords, and nature-dwelling creatures. The title is poignant for it reflects on relationships, the passage of time, and a sense of place. Adding to a substantial oeuvre (poetry publications, several novels, and translations from French, German, and Japanese) Last Harvest presents a retrospective view of Guest’s life as it nears its completion.
Linda Black’s fourth poetry collection, Then, is a twisting and turning thread that is pulled through the layers of emotion and experience that form the fabric of life. In a stylised and sophisticated manner, yet also playful and childlike, Black manages to weave multiple incarnations of herself throughout her writing.