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