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