Further to yesterday's quote about trying new things, I'm going to start putting up my thoughts here about the poetry collections I've been reading.
I was at a talk at Sussex University a couple of weeks ago by Chris Hamilton-Emery of Salt Publishing and he was talking abut how many people are writing poetry as compared to reading it at the moment. Then I got (from the excellent Happenstance Press) a copy of the useful How (Not) To Get Your Poetry Published which makes a similar point.
So I got all hot under the collar about this, until I was talking with a friend who made the point that actually it's very hard to find out what kind of poetry you might like to read. There are novel reviews, even short story collection reviews, by the dozen but not that many actual poetry collection reviews. Or mainstream ones anyway. You can't even browse in your local bookseller because most - although not all - have limited selections, and these are mostly the popular anthologies. So how do we know where to even begin if we're not going to poetry readings, talking to poets, and reading literary journals? And let's face it, not all of us are. I'm not as often as I'd like, for starters.
Hopefully you'll all write in and prove me wrong, and that would be great because I can start a list of places to go to find out new poets to read, but in the meantime, I'm going to start putting up here some of the collections and poets I've been enjoying - or not enjoying - recently to give you a flavour of what's out there. Please do let me know your suggestions too - and why - so again we can share the good news, and even those of us who write poetry can read some more too.
First up is Caroline Bird's Trouble Came to the Turnip, not because it's my favourite ever collection but to be honest, because it was the first from my 'special shelf' that came to hand. The fact it was on that 'SS' in the first place though shows I value it!
Caroline is disgustingly young, born in 1986, but has already won masses of awards and written plays for the Royal Court, stories for the BBC etc etc. She also runs workshops in schools, and there's an enthusiasm and vitality here that I can imagine the kids loving. I did too. She's a prime example that accessible poetry doesn't mean dumb poetry.
Even the titles make me smile - 'The Leprechaun Thinks It Matters', 'A Gentlewoman's Pornography', 'My Lovely Legless Acrobat', 'The Fairy Is Bored With Her Garden', 'My Love Made Me a Hat', and of course the title poem itself, but this is a book of more than just titles. Listen to some of the images:
It has been scribbled in the stars,
we will all trade our brains for lava lamps.
The ones with the thinnest eyebrows will survive.
(It will come to Pass)
The mementos start off small.
The jelly baby that you never ate
that's gone all hard and statuesque.
Once you stop playing with the pencil on her website (and be warned it took me a long time to get over the novelty of it but then I'm easily pleased), you can read some of the poems from this collection here, and here, or listen to Caroline read a poem here ...