In Issue 9's podcast, Adam, Rhys and our guest Emily Blewitt coincidentally all chose poetry pamphlets to recommend to our listeners, proving that the art form is still going strong almost a decade after Jackie Kay celebrated its 'return'.
Teaching a Bird to Sing – Tracey Rhys
Green Bottle Press, 2016
Tracey Rhys’s Teaching a Bird to Sing was published by Green Bottle Press in 2016, and was featured in The TLS in its end-of-year round-up of the Michael Marks Awards for Poetry Pamphlets. Touching yet unsentimental, Teaching a Bird to Sing explores Rhys’s son’s diagnosis of autism, what it means to her and the frustrations, worries and hopes it brings.
Written from the perspective of both mother and child, the poems in this pamphlet are by turns tender and outraged. Some were featured in the Winterlight Theatre stage show Touch Blue Touch Yellow, providing a sobering insight into the lives of autistic people and those who love them.
Teaching a Bird to Sing is available to buy from greenbottlepress.com
The Wild Gods – Malene Engelund
Valley Press, 2016
Malene Engelund grew up in Aalborg, a city grown from a former Viking settlement in northern Denmark. She moved to England in 2002 and currently lives in Greenwich. The eighteen poems that comprise her debut pamphlet, The Wild Gods, reveal a distinctly Nordic imagination, punctured with rich colour, shadows and light.
Here are letters, portraits and prayers, composed with an almost painterly precision. Searching and clear-eyed, each poem is a compact saga that revives folklore and extends it into the present. Engelund’s wild gods take their places between borders: of home and belonging, darkness and dawn, the silenced and the lost.
The Wild Gods is available to buy from valleypressuk.com
Giraffe – Bryony Littlefair
Giraffe is a beguiling, beautiful and entertaining debut pamphlet of poems by Bryony Littlefair. Her poetry displays novelistic qualities: clarity of language and the use of realism, a feeling for plot and incident, an eye and ear for character. Also noted are the subtle ways that Littlefair indicates character and relationships. There is a good deal of wit on display in Giraffe, but also a wonderful humanity.
Poems need head, heart, and soul but this particular Mslexia Poetry Prize-winning pamphlet has an extra ingredient: a feminist kick. Littlefair is acutely aware of women’s lives and gives us mothers, daughters, grandmothers, friends and colleagues whose adventures or misadventures we become increasingly eager to follow.
Giraffe is available to buy from serenbooks.com
To hear what we said about these books in the 'What We're Reading' segment of the Issue 9 podcast, go here: crunchpoetry.com/issue-9.html
In Issue 8's podcast, Rhys recommended a debut collection that interrogates the very idea of masculinity, Adam chose to highlight a new novel by a Faber poet, Richard suggested a modern morality cycle with an everyman figure at its centre, and our guest clare e. potter praised an artful and expansive collection from a newly-revived author.
physical – Andrew McMillan
Jonathan Cape, 2015
Winner of the 2015 Guardian First Book Award, Andrew McMillan’s debut poetry collection physical confronts what it is to be a man, and interrogates the very idea of masculinity. Raw and urgent, these poems are hymns to the male body – to male friendship and male love – muscular, sometimes shocking, but always deeply moving.
McMillan is an elegant stylist and an unfashionably honest poet. Dispensing with conventional punctuation, he is attentive and alert to the quality of breathing, giving his poems an extraordinary sense of being vividly poised and present – drawing lines that are deft, lyrical and perfectly pitched from a world of urban dereliction.
physical is available to buy from penguin.co.uk
The Adulterants – Joe Dunthorne
Hamish Hamilton, 2018
Joe Dunthorne’s The Adulterants is an uproarious tale of competitively sensitive men and catastrophic open marriages, riots on the streets of London and Internet righteousness, and one man's valiant quest to come of age in his thirties.
Fresh, sharp and wickedly funny, The Adulterants is Dunthorne's third novel, following Submarine (2008) and Wild Abandon (2011). His first full-length poetry collection will be published by Faber and Faber in 2019.
The Adulterants is available to buy from penguin.co.uk
Pallbearers Envying the One Who Rides – Stephen Dobyns
A modern morality cycle with an everyman figure named Heart at its centre, Pallbearers Envying the One Who Rides takes the form of sixty-one episodic poems. Throughout the collection, Heart – who “comes to resemble Charlie Brown as seen by Charles Bukowski” – is foiled repeatedly in his quest for happiness.
Dobyns’ poetry employs extended tropes, using the ridiculous and the absurd as vehicles to introduce more profound meditations on life, love, and art. Originally published by Penguin in 1999, Pallbearers Envying the One Who Rides is Dobyn’s tenth collection of poems. A later edition was published by Bloodaxe Books.
Pallbearers Envying the One Who Rides is now out of print, but you can still pick up a second-hand copy at worldofbooks.com
Sax Burglar Blues – Robert Walton
Seren Books, 2017
The poems in Robert Walton’s Sax Burglar Blues are clever and keenly observed, ranging from vivid memories of youth to pointed satire. In the title poem, the pleasing complexity of jazz mirrors the poet’s vocation to embody, echo and reverberate the complexities of lived experience.
As befits a poet born and based on the Severn Estuary, Walton’s land and townscapes are often damp, misty, watery, and recorded with many subtle variations of blue. There are also pleasingly unlikely totem animals, a nod to the mythical man-eating crocodile that infests Bristol Docks, and the surreal lampoon of a canary’s presidential candidacy. Artful and expansive, this is a stunning collection from a newly-revived author.
Sax Burglar Blues is available to buy from serenbooks.com
To hear what we said about these books in the 'What We're Reading' segment of the Issue 8 podcast, go here: crunchpoetry.com/issue-8.html
In Issue #7's podcast, our guest Rhys Milsom pointed listeners towards a collection that is full of sentiment without being sentimental, Richard recommended a fascinating glimpse into the mind of a Pulitzer Prize-winning poet, Adam endorsed a stunning debut collection from a former Crunch guest, and Rhys suggested picking up a mini coffee-table book about carving site-specific poems onto stone.
A Boat Called Annalise – Lynne Hjelmgaard
Seren Books, 2016
Lynne Hjelmgaard’s third collection A Boat Called Annalise evokes life on a sailboat, recalling a journey the poet took on a sailboat to the Caribbean and back to Europe with her husband. The couple’s relationship is poised on tensions, beautifully observed, as masculine/feminine, the need to assert and/or withdraw in the face of the turbulent seascape.
Our guest Rhys Milsom reviewed A Boat Called Annalise for Wales Arts Review in 2016. You can read Rhys's review here: walesartsreview.org/a-boat-called-annalise-by-lynne-hjelmgaard
A Boat Called Annalise is available to buy from serenbooks.com
The Monster Loves His Labyrinth – Charles Simic
Ausable Press, 2008
The Monster Loves His Labyrinth offers a fascinating glimpse into the mind of poet Charles Simic. Passionate, witty, tender and curious, these notebook entries range from casual jottings to profound observations. Their subject is the vast array of ways in which we human beings try to make sense of our world.
Born in Yugoslavia in 1938, Charles Simic won the Pulitzer Prize for Poetry in 1990. In 2007, he was appointed US Poet Laureate and received the Wallace Stevens Award from the Academy of American Poets.
The Monster Loves His Labyrinth is available to buy from coppercanyonpress.org
The Days After – Rebecca Parfitt
Listen Softly London, 2017
The Days After is the stunning debut collection from our Issue #5 guest Rebecca Parfitt. A moving, close-to-the-bone account of heartbreak, the poems record the trajectory of a relationship – from passionate infatuation, through tortuous unravelling and, finally, the promise of what will be lived afterwards. The collection was recently selected as one of The Cardiff Review's books of 2017: "...both delicate and powerful....Parfitt has a precise, sometimes devastatingly brittle, quality to her writing."
The Days After is available to buy from listensoftlylondon.com
Watch Rebecca reading some of the poems from The Days After here: crunchpoetry.com/rebecca-parfitt.html
Stanza Stones – Simon Armitage, Pip Hall and Tom Lonsdale
Enitharmon Press, 2013
In 2012, Simon Armitage was commissioned by the Ilkley Literature Festival to write six site-specific poems. Stanza Stones presents a record of the project to carve these poems onto stone along a new trail in England’s Pennine region.
With the help of local expert Tom Lonsdale and letter-carver Pip Hall, Armitage found extraordinary, secluded sites for his words to be carved into stone. Stanza Stones brings together Armitage's six poems and the accounts of Hall and Lonsdale, publishing them alongside colour photographs of the project in progress and the stones in their completed state.
Stanza Stones is available to buy from enitharmon.co.uk
To hear what we said about these books in the 'What We're Reading' segment of the Issue #7 podcast, go here: crunchpoetry.com/issue-7.html
In Issue #6's podcast, our guest Christopher Cornwell recommended a collection that celebrates and laments a lost Parisian river, Rhys pointed our listeners towards an anthology of emerging Welsh writers, Adam revisited a first collection written in Swansea dialect and Richard recommended a publication that represents a unique and inclusive poetry of consciousness.
Teint – Zoë Skoulding
Hafan Books, 2016
Teint (or Teint: For the Bievre / Pour la Bievre) is the latest publication in the Boiled String series of poetry chapbooks from Hafan Books. Zoë Skoulding's poems in this collection celebrate and mourn the 'lost' Parisian river La Bièvre – a culverted tributary of the Seine.
A bilingual publication, Teint includes translations into French from the Parisian poet Jean Portante, whose own work was translated into English by Skoulding and published in In Reality (Seren, 2013).
Teint is available to buy from lulu.com/hafan
Cheval 9: The Terry Hetherington Award Anthology 2016
Parthian Books, 2016
The ninth edition of the Cheval anthology contains a selection of the best poetry and prose submitted to last year's Terry Hetherington Award. The award has become known as one of the most significant awards for young writers in Wales, and counts poets Jonathan Edwards, Natalie Ann Holborow and Jemma L. King amongst its previous winners.
In addition to publishing the year’s best submissions, the anthology also collects new work by previous winners and commended entrants.
Cheval 9 is available to buy from parthianbooks.com
Tidy Boy – David Hughes
Swansea Poetry Workshop, 1999
A first collection from David Hughes, Tidy Boy reflects upon people's relationships with one another, on being Welsh, and on the city of Swansea and its inhabitants. Many of the poems are written in Swansea dialect, brilliantly capturing the voices and experiences of people rarely heard in poetry. Unfortunately, Tidy Boy is now out of print, but you can still pick up a second-hand copy at biblio.co.uk
Watch David Hughes read 'Swansea Market', filmed and edited by friends of the Crunch Turnshoe Productions:
Swansea Market – David Hughes
A Dream of Mind – C.K. Williams
Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 1992
A Dream of Mind is a challenging, exhilarating collection, representing an important stage in the evolution of C. K. Williams' work. It's dominated by the long title poem, which explores the materials and qualities of states of consciousness with enormous flexibility and suppleness.
The poetry of C. K. Williams, who died in 2015, has won an essential place in contemporary American poetry. The long lines that characterised his style from the mid-1970s onwards allowed him to make ever more radical forays into what The New York Times called "a unique and inclusive poetry of consciousness."
A Dream of Mind is available to buy from us.macmillan.com
To hear what we said about these books in the 'What We're Reading' segment of the Issue #6 podcast, go here: crunchpoetry.com/issue-6.html
In Issue #5's podcast, our guest Rebecca Parfitt recommended a poet who shines a light on human ecstasy and sadness with blinding precision; Richard pointed our listeners towards a book of poetry that is straightforward, honest and bold; Adam enjoyed returning to a seminal work by one of the most influential writers of the 19th century; and Rhys spoke about a collection that offers a timely reminder of the plight of those who seek asylum.
The Sand Garden – Humberto Gatica
Hafan Books, 2008
The Sand Garden / El Jardin de Arena is the debut poetry collection from Humberto Gatica, a Chilean exile who arrived in Wales shortly after the 1973 military coup. The poems, included in both Spanish and English, deal with the enforced exile of Gatica and his family and the subsequent struggle to adapt to life in a foreign country. Fittingly, whereas Hafan's other marriages of literature and visual art are often collaborative, The Sand Garden is instead the sole work of Gatica, with the poems accompanied on the page by the poet's black and white photographs of exile in Swansea.
The Sand Garden is available to buy from lulu.com/hafan
Rhys wrote a longer introduction to Humberto Gatica's poetry for Everything But A Mis-Print back in 2010. You can read it here: rhysowainwilliams.com/blog/an-introduction-to-humberto-gatica
My Feelings – Nick Flynn
Graywolf Press, 2015
In My Feelings, Nick Flynn makes no claims on anyone else’s. The poems in this, his fourth collection of poetry, inhabit a continually shifting sense of selfhood in the attempt to contain quicksilver realms of emotional energy – from grief and panic to gratitude and understanding.
Poet and memoirist Nick Flynn was born in Scituate, Massachusetts. Like My Feelings, his other poetry collections Some Ether (2000), Blind Huber (2002) and The Captain Asks for a Show of Hands (2011) were also published by Graywolf Press. He teaches creative writing at the University of Houston, and splits his time between Houston and New York.
My Feelings is available to buy from graywolfpress.org
Leaves of Grass – Walt Whitman
James and Andrew Rome, 1855
Leaves of Grass is a collection of quintessentially American poems, the seminal work of one of the most influential writers of the 19th century. Though the first edition was published in 1855, Whitman spent most of his professional life writing and re-writing Leaves of Grass, revising it multiple times until his death. This resulted in vastly different editions over four decades – the first edition was a small book of just 12 poems, and the last was a compilation of over 400.
With that many poems to choose from, it's difficult to know where to start. As Adam mentioned in the podcast, the poem in the collection he returns to most often is 'Song of the Broad-Axe'. Read it for free on poemhunter.com
As a work in the public domain, Leaves of Grass is widely available.
Sunshine – Melissa Lee-Houghton
Penned in the Margins, 2016
Sunshine is the new collection from Melissa Lee-Houghton. A writer of startling confession, her poems inhabit the lonely hotel rooms, psych wards and deserted lanes of austerity Britain.
The collection combines acute social observation with a dark, surreal humour born of first-hand experience. Abuse, addiction and mental health are all subject to Lee-Houghton’s poetic eye. But these are also poems of extravagance, hope and desire, that stake new ground for the Romantic lyric in an age of social media and internet porn. In this new book of poems, Melissa Lee-Houghton shines a light on human ecstasy and sadness with blinding precision.
Sunshine is available to buy from pennedinthemargins.co.uk
To hear what we said about these books in the 'What We're Reading' segment of the Issue #5 podcast, go here: crunchpoetry.com/issue-5.html
In our Issue #4 recommendations, there were two books from the excellent Nine Arches Press (picked by Rhys and our guest Natalie Ann Holborow), a collection teeming with exploration and innovation (championed by Richard), and a recommendation via a recommendation from Adam (with a nod to Issue #1’s feature poet Ian Gregson). There’s also the now-traditional second pick from our guest: a brave, hard-hitting sequence of poems about loss that you’ll read and re-read.
Kith – Jo Bell
Nine Arches Press, 2015
The bold and generous poems in Jo Bell’s second collection Kith interweave bigger questions of place, identity and community and what these mean to us, here and now. Delighting in the belting, beautiful turn-of-phrase, the poems are lyrical and joyous, but always precise and clear as birdsong.
A unique force in British poetry, Jo Bell brings a large personality and boundless energy to both writing and promoting it. Her global workshop group 52 won a Saboteur Award, and was later turned into a book of poetry prompts (also available from Nine Arches).
Kith is available to buy from ninearchespress.com
Ooga-Booga – Frederick Seidel
Farrar, Straus, & Giroux, 2006
Frederick Seidel is often named as one of the greatest living poets. Our Issue #1 feature poet Ian Gregson called him a “challenging and disturbing personality...more important than Dylan Thomas,” and urged our listeners to read his extensive back catalogue. It was this recommendation that brought Ooga-Booga, Seidel’s tenth collection, to the shelves of the Sillman residence.
Originally published by Farrar, Straus, & Giroux of New York in 2006, a UK edition of Ooga-Booga was published by Faber & Faber in 2009. Reviewer Adam Kirsch suggested that "...the title itself – a parody of a threat, something the monster under the bed might grunt – manages to capture the weird dialectic of Mr. Seidel's black comedy: He is scary, but funny, but still scary...”
Ooga-Booga is available to buy from faber.co.uk
A Book of Rooms – Kobus Moolman
Deep South, 2014
A Book of Rooms inhabits the childhood and young adulthood of a man with a serious physical disability growing up in the final years of Apartheid. Brilliantly experimental and profoundly moving, the book tells a single extended story – what Moolman calls “a brave/foolhardy attempt to shake up the distinction between truth (fact) and fiction, between autobiography and invention.”
Divided into four sections (‘Who’, ‘What’, ‘Why’, and ‘When’), each poem is linked to a room (‘The Room of Maybe’, ‘The Room of Green’, ‘The Room of Spillage’, and more), with the reader invited right into the character’s bleak and constant meetings with pain and failure. However, within this narrative there is also a powerful will to live, and an even more powerful drive for truth.
A Book of Rooms is available to buy from deepsouth.co.za
Absence has a weight of its own – Daniel Sluman
Nine Arches Press, 2012
Daniel Sluman’s Absence has a weight of its own is an unflinching study of serious illness, sex, death and decadence. In sometimes brutal and spare cadences, Sluman explores the extremities of human experience in poems that are skilfully, icily primed.
This debut collection is at times provocative and by turns tender and wry. Frailties and vices are held up for inspection in a ruined landscape of disappointing highs, hung-over regrets and head-on collisions, haunted by figures such as Roman – an unrepentant and debauched womaniser. In the aftermath, real love and hope remain stubbornly, emerging into the sunlight of an unexpected new day.
Absence has a weight of its own is available to buy from ninearchespress.com
Her Birth – Rebecca Goss
Carcanet Press, 2013
In 2007, Rebecca Goss’s newborn daughter Ella was diagnosed with Severe Ebstein’s Anomaly, a rare and incurable heart condition. She lived for sixteen months. Her Birth is a book-length sequence of poems beginning with Ella’s birth, her short life and her death, and ending with the joys and complexities that come with the birth of another child.
In Her Birth, Goss navigates the difficult territory of grief and loss in poems that are spare, tender and haunting. The collection secured Goss’ place on the Poetry Book Society’s 2014 Next Generation Poets list, and was nominated for a Forward Prize.
Her Birth is available to buy from carcanet.co.uk
To hear what we said about these books in the 'What We're Reading' segment of the Issue #4 podcast, go here: crunchpoetry.com/issue-4.html
In Issue #3's podcast, our guest Alan Kellermann recommended two books: a collection of poems that deals in dualities, and an inspirational guide to the writing of poetry. Meanwhile, Rhys suggested picking up a copy of a ‘verse novella’ by Scotland’s leading rural poet, and Richard and Adam pointed our listeners towards two poetry anthologies that are worth dipping into.
On Poetry – Glyn Maxwell
Oberon Books, 2012
Illustrated with examples from canonical poets, On Poetry is a collection of short essays and reflections from the acclaimed British poet Glyn Maxwell. A worthy addition to the Oberon Masters series, it serves as both an accessible guide to the writing of poetry, and a defence of the art.
On Poetry will be especially prized by writers and readers who wish to understand why and how poetic technique matters. These essays illustrate Maxwell's poetic philosophy: that the greatest verse arises from a harmony of mind and body, and that poetic forms originate in human necessities such as breath, heartbeat, footstep and posture.
On Poetry is available to buy from oberonbooks.com
Lucifer at the Starlite – Kim Addonizio
W. W. Norton & Company, 2011
Kim Addonizio’s fifth collection of poetry explores life’s dual nature. Good and evil. Light and dark. Suffering and joy. As one American Poets reviewer put it: “If this book is a party, then someone is shooting heroin in the bathroom, a national disaster is being watched on TV in the kitchen, and the man and woman making out in the bedroom are both married to other people.”
Whether looking outward to events on the world stage or inward at struggles with the self, the poems in this collection aim at the heart, and against the feeling that Lucifer may have already won the day.
Lucifer at the Starlite is available to buy from books.wwnorton.com
Killochries – Jim Carruth
Freight Books, 2015
A stunning epic poem (though marketed as a ‘verse novella’), Jim Carruth’s Killochries tracks the relationship between two very different men working a remote sheep farm over the course of twelve months. Spare, sharp, bold, innovative, touching – Killochries is a major achievement from one of Scotland’s most important and influential voices.
Despite being his country’s leading rural poet and having won a clutch of poetry awards, this is Jim Carruth’s first formal collection. Since our Issue #3 podcast was recorded back in December of last year, Killochries has deservedly been shortlisted for the Seamus Heaney Centre Poetry Prize.
Killochries is available to buy from freightbooks.co.uk
Another Country: Haiku Poetry From Wales
Gomer Press, 2011
Published in 2011, Another Country is the first ever Welsh national anthology of haiku poetry, and features the work of forty poets who have all contributed significantly to the development and popularity of this most ancient yet versatile of literary forms.
Concise, precise and evocative, the anthology takes you on a journey through and around the ordinary and extraordinary aspects of everyday life. Edited by three highly respected pioneers of the haiku in Wales – Ken Jones, Lynne Rees and Nigel Jenkins – it includes poems from Issue #3 guest Alan Kellermann and The Crunch’s own Rhys Owain Williams.
Another Country is available to buy from gomer.co.uk
Best British Poetry Series
Salt’s annual Best British Poetry anthology presents the finest and most engaging poems found in UK literary magazines and webzines over the past year. Each poem is accompanied by a note by the poet themselves, explaining the inspiration for the poem and why they decided to write in that form.
At a time when print journals still retain their significance and popularity, and when new sites are flourishing on the web, Salt’s anthology gives us a snapshot of current UK poetry practices by bringing together a diverse selection of poems. The 2015 offering, edited by Emily Berry (with Roddy Lumsden as series editor), is the fifth edition in the series.
Best British Poetry is available to buy from saltpublishing.com
To hear what we said about these books in the 'What We're Reading' segment of the Issue #3 podcast, go here: crunchpoetry.com/issue-3.html
In Issue #2's podcast, our guest Nia Davies recommended two books: a novel from Chris Kraus that refuses to be pinned down by genre, and a poetry chapbook from Hoa Nguyen that challenges the authority of language. Meanwhile, Richard, Adam and Rhys all spoke about poets and collections that, in their own very unique ways, meditate on the complexities of what it is to be human.
Tells of the Crackling – Hoa Nguyen
Ugly Duckling Presse, 2015
Hoa Nguyen’s chapbook Tells of the Crackling reveals love in its lost and often fragmentary forms. It sifts through rivers and blue explosions with a "yell of living", and asks how we can attempt to retrieve the irretrievable.
Language, and the spaces in between words, are important to Nguyen, a poet who wants "the root of the words / not the fucking use / made purposed and stupid." The poems in Tells of the Crackling seek to alter our perception of the world, and separate how it really is from how it is presented through language. With its intriguing nuances, it is a chapbook collection that definitely invites the reader to return.
Tells of the Crackling is available to buy from uglyducklingpresse.org
I Love Dick – Chris Kraus
When Chris Kraus, an unsuccessful artist pushing 40, spends an evening with a rogue academic named Dick, she falls madly and inexplicably in love, enlisting her husband in her haunted pursuit. Dick proposes a kind of game between them, but when he fails to answer their letters Chris continues alone, transforming an adolescent infatuation into a new form of philosophy.
Blurring the lines of fiction, essay and memoir, Chris Kraus's I Love Dick was a literary sensation when it was first published in 1997. Widely considered to be the most important feminist novel of the past two decades, it is still essential reading today; as relevant, fierce and funny as ever.
The new hardback edition of I Love Dick is available from serpentstail.com
The October Palace – Jane Hirshfield
Harper Perennial, 1994
Grounded in a series of meditations, The October Palace – Jane Hirshfield's third collection of poetry, published in 1994 – explores the ways that radiance dwells most truly in the ordinary, the difficult, and the plain.
Finely crafted and delicately thought out, the poems in this collection frequently hinge on a turning point or moment of insight, and explore themes for which Hirshfield would later become well known, such as awareness, consciousness, and the changeable nature of perception.
The October Palace is available to buy from harpercollins.com
Sole – D. E. Oprava
Blackheath Books, 2010
D. E. Oprava’s poetry considers the curious skin of life, and the universal bones beneath. Sole, his third collection of poetry, is a book that explores his childhood growing up in rural America. Each of the poems aims to express a solitary emotion, a universal whole, and the peculiar holes in which we often find ourselves.
An American-born writer who has lived in Wales for almost two decades, D. E. Oprava has published six collections of poetry, the latest of which – The Last Museum of Laughter – was highly commended by the 2014 Forward Prizes.
Sole is available to buy from blackheathbooks.org.uk
Here and the Water – Sarah Coles
Gomer Press, 2012
Sarah Coles' first collection of poetry – Here and the Water – is an intensely personal journey through the complexity of human relationships. Her portrayal of family, and of love and loneliness, is touching and incisive, whilst her engagement with the beauty and darkness of the natural world can thrill and unsettle in equal measures.
In Here and the Water, Coles embraces life's joys and complexities, wherever they appear. Sometimes they're at the seaside, or in the back garden, other times in the city and its back lanes, and many of them are encountered on expeditions with her children. But even in the company of others, she often travels alone.
Here and the Water is available to buy from gomer.co.uk
To hear what we said about these books in the 'What We're Reading' segment of the Issue #2 podcast, go here: crunchpoetry.com/issue-2.html
In Issue #1's podcast, Adam recommended a return to the first Forward Prize winner for Best Collection, Rhys pointed our listeners towards a podcast dedicated to a young poet whose promise will never be fulfilled, Richard spoke about an incredibly imaginative sequence by a Dutch poet in translation, and our guest Ian Gregson praised a collection that proves that poetry is still a place where the most difficult things can be said.
The Man with Night Sweats – Thom Gunn
Faber & Faber, 1992
Originally published in 1992, The Man with Night Sweats was Thom Gunn's first collection of poetry in a decade. Displaying his unparalleled ability to move between classical forms and looser, colloquial measures, Gunn's poems in this collection address a wide range of themes, both intimate and social.
The collection ends with a sequence of poems about the many friends Gunn lost to the AIDS epidemic of the 1980s – part elegy for those who have been lost and part evocation of the changes that await those who survive. With their unflinching directness, compassion and grace, they have been described as among the most moving statements to have been provoked by the disease.
The Man with Night Sweats is available to buy from faber.co.uk
Mysteries of Afternoon and Evening – Rachel Sherwood
Sherwood Press, 1981
Rachel Sherwood's chapbook – Mysteries of Afternoon and Evening – was published posthumously in 1981, two years after her untimely death. In a contemporary review in the Los Angeles Times, Peter Clothier said the collection displayed "...the attentive eye and sharp ear for language of a young poet whose promise will sadly never be fulfilled…[and] whose weaknesses reflect only the short time she was permitted to develop her growing talents. The book is a moving tribute to a clear-sighted and caring human sensibility."
Unfortunately, Mysteries of Afternoon and Evening is now out of print, but you can read some of Rachel Sherwood's poetry, and listen to the 'Two Poets in their Youth' podcast Rhys mentioned, here: poetryfoundation.org/bio/rachel-sherwood#poet
Raptors – Toon Tellegen
Carcanet Press, 2011
With the economy of proverbs and the psychological insight of a novel, Toon Tellegen’s acclaimed sequence Raptors depicts the dynamics of a family held hostage by the mood-swings and histrionics of a father, a figure both comic and terrifying, grotesque and pathetic.
An improvisation on a theme, circling back to 'my father' at the start of each poem, Raptors builds to a story without narrative, its extravagant imaginative leaps into absurdity held within a framework of tender observation.
Translator Judith Wilkinson worked closely with Tellegen to create English versions of the poems that capture the startling clarity and inventiveness of the original Dutch.
Raptors is available to buy from carcanet.co.uk
Into It – Lawrence Joseph
Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2007
Into It is the fourth collection from Lawrence Joseph, an American writer of great originality and scope. In the words of Ian Gregson, he is a poet who "discusses ideas directly and explicitly...and takes poetry seriously, as a place where the most difficult things can be said."
Along the New York waterfront, on a crowded street, at the site where the World Trade Center stood: Joseph enters into these places to capture the thoughts and images, the colours and feelings, and the language that give the present its pressured complexity. Few contemporary writers have been able to shape this material into poetry, but Joseph has done so masterfully, and in poems that are daring, searching, and classically satisfying.
A list of places where you can buy Into It is available at us.macmillan.com
To hear what we said about these books in the 'What We're Reading' segment of the Issue #1 podcast, go here: crunchpoetry.com/issue-1.html
In Issue #0's podcast, Rhys spoke a little about rediscovering one of his favourite writers – the prose poet Louis Jenkins – as a result of moving house, Richard recommended a collection of passionate and elegantly written essays from Tom Sleigh, and Adam took the opportunity to ask Richard a few questions about his debut poetry collection 'Little Man'.
North of the Cities – Louis Jenkins
Will O' The Wisp Books, 2007
The meta-fiction poems collected in North of the Cities perfectly typify the contemporary prose poem: a snapshot of everyday life laced with sardonic humour that strives for sonorous effect. But Louis Jenkins is, perhaps above all, a fantastic storyteller; "all poetry," he says, "comes down to storytelling. This is what happened. This is what it's like to be a live human being. You tell that story the best way you can."
North of the Cities is available to buy from willothewispbooks.com
Rhys wrote a longer introduction to Louis Jenkins' poetry for Everything But A Mis-Print back in 2011. You can read it here: rhysowainwilliams.com/blog/an-introduction-to-louis-jenkins
Interview with a Ghost – Tom Sleigh
Graywolf Press, 2011
In Interview with a Ghost, Tom Sleigh investigates poetry from the vantage point of his conviction that "while art and life are separable, they aren't separate." With passion and erudition, his essays explore issues of self-hood that are often assumed but not adequately confronted by contemporary poetry – namely, what it means to employ the first person in a poem, the elusive "I" with all of its freighted aesthetic and psychological implications.
The works of poets – including Anne Bradstreet, Sir Walter Raleigh, Robert Lowell, Thom Gunn, Seamus Heaney, and Frank Bidart – are examined, as are Sleigh's own poems in the contexts of his own history and sickness.
Interview with a Ghost is available to buy from graywolfpress.org
Little Man – Richard James Jones
Parthian Books, 2014
Though none of us intend for The Crunch to become a vehicle for our own egos, it seemed remiss to not ask our very own Richard James Jones about the process of writing, editing and launching his debut collection Little Man, especially as it was the book that Adam had most recently been reading.
So we did.
Published by Parthian Books towards the end of last year, Little Man was soon selected as one of the Scottish Poetry Library's recommended titles – alongside work by poets such as Carol Ann Duffy, Simon Armitage, Michael Longley and John Burnside.
Little Man is available to buy from parthianbooks.com
To hear what we said about these books in the 'What We're Reading' segment of the Issue #0 podcast, go here: crunchpoetry.com/issue-0.html