Neil Astley - Author

About the Author

Featured books by Neil Astley

Being Human The Companion Anthology to Staying Alive and Being Alive

Being Human The Companion Anthology to Staying Alive and Being Alive

Author: Neil Astley Format: Paperback Release Date: 01/03/2011

Being Human is the third book in the Staying Alive poetry trilogy. Staying Alive and its sequel Being Alive have introduced many thousands of new readers to contemporary poetry. Being Human is a companion volume to those two books - a world poetry anthology offering an even broader, international selection of 'real poems for unreal times'. The range of poetry here complements that of the first two anthologies: hundreds of thoughtful and passionate poems about living in the modern world; poems that touch the heart, stir the mind and fire the spirit; poems about being human, about love and loss, fear and longing, hurt and wonder. There are more great poems from the 20th century as well as many recent poems of rare imaginative power from the first decade of the 21st century. But this book is also rare in reflecting the concerns of readers from all walks of life. Such has been the appeal of Staying Alive and Being Alive that many people have written not only to express their appreciation of these books, but also to share poems which have been important in their own lives. Being Human draws on this highly unusual publisher's mailbag, including many talismanic personal survival poems suggested by our readers.

Other books by Neil Astley

Land of Three Rivers The Poetry of North-East England

Land of Three Rivers The Poetry of North-East England

Author: Neil Astley Format: Paperback Release Date: 10/11/2017

Land of Three Rivers is a celebration of North-East England in poetry, featuring its places and people, culture, history, language and stories in poems and songs with both rural and urban settings. Taking its bearings from the Tyne, Wear and Tees of the title (from Vin Garbutt's song 'John North'), the book maps the region in poems relating to past and present, depicting life from Roman times through medieval Northumbria and the industrial era of mining and shipbuilding up to the present-day. The anthology has modern perspectives on historical subjects, such as W.H. Auden's 'Roman Wall Blues' and Alistair Elliot on the aftermath of the Battle of Heavenfield in the 7th century, as well as poets from past ages, starting with Caedmon, the first English poet, writing in the 8th century. There are classic North-East songs from the oral tradition of balladeers and pitmen poets alongside the work of literary chroniclers like Mark Akenside from the 18th century, followed by evocations of Northumberland by decadent gentry poet Algernon Charles Swinburne contrasting with grim tales of life down the pit by Tommy Armstrong, Joseph Skipsey and Thomas Wilson in the 19th century. The region's favourite tipple is championed by 18th-century poet John Cunningham in his eulogy 'Newcastle Beer', while 200 years later, Tony Harrison's defences are 'broken down / on nine or ten Newcastle Brown' in his 'Newcastle Is Peru' (1969). Durham is celebrated in a 12th-century priest's poem but is a trinity of 'University, Cathedral, Gaol' for Tony Harrison. The River Tyne flows through poems by Wilfrid Gibson, James Kirkup, Michael Roberts, Francis Scarfe from early to mid-20th century, while the region's dialects (from Northumbrian to Geordie and Pitmatic) are heard in poems by Basil Bunting, William Martin, Tom Pickard, Katrina Porteous and Fred Reed. Other modern and contemporary poets and songwriters featured include Gillian Allnutt, Peter Armstrong, Peter Bennet, Robyn Bolam, George Charlton, Julia Darling, Richard Dawson, the Elliotts of Birtley, W.N. Herbert, Alan Hull, James Kirkup, Mark Knopfler, Barry MacSweeney, Sean O'Brien, Rodney Pybus, Kathleen Raine, Jon Silkin and Anne Stevenson, as well as poets who've spent time in the North-East, such as Fleur Adcock, David Constantine, Fred D'Aguiar, Frances Horovitz, Philip Larkin, Michael Longley and Carol Rumens, writing highly memorable poems in response to the place, its people and their stories. The book's introduction is in two parts, with Rodney Pybus covering the historical background and Neil Astley the last 50 years. This emphasises the importance of the oral tradition during the centuries when little written poetry of note was produced in the region. There are also fascinating commentaries on key historical figures by the late Alan Myers.

Funny Ha-Ha, Funny Peculiar: A book of strange & comic poems

Funny Ha-Ha, Funny Peculiar: A book of strange & comic poems

Author: Neil Astley Format: Paperback Release Date: 06/07/2015

This lively anthology brings together two kinds of funny: humorous poems that make you laugh or smile (funny ha-ha), and strange, surreal, witty or plain weird poems (funny peculiar). There has always been a tradition of comic and curious verse in English poetry, but in contemporary poetry the peculiar has come into its own, as this surprising selection shows. Presented in a hardback version of the giftbook format used for other shorter Bloodaxe anthologies aimed at a popular readership, Funny Ha-Ha, Funny Peculiar covers a wide variety of highly entertaining or provocatively engaging poets.

In Person: World Poets

In Person: World Poets

Author: Neil Astley Format: Paperback Release Date: 26/03/2015

In 2008, Bloodaxe published the world's first DVD-anthology, In Person: 30 Poets

Hundred Years' War: Modern War Poems

Hundred Years' War: Modern War Poems

Author: Neil Astley Format: Paperback Release Date: 29/05/2014

War never stops. There have been two world wars since 1914 lasting for ten years, but wars have continued for a hundred years since then in many parts of the world: wars between nations, tribes and factions, wars over religion and beliefs, wars fought for land or oil or history, civil wars, political wars, and the Cold War when the West remained on a war-footing while supposedly at peace. This anthology presents poems from a hundred years of war by poets writing as combatants on opposite sides, as victims or anguished witnesses. It chronicles times of war and conflict from the trenches of the Somme through the Spanish Civil War to the horrors of the Second World War and the Holocaust; and in Korea, the Middle East, Vietnam, Central America, Ireland, the Balkans, Iraq and Afghanistan and other so-called theatres of war . There are poems from years when the world was threatened by all-out nuclear war and more recent poems written in response to international terrorism. Editor Neil Astley has selected many of the poems from his Staying Alive trilogy - the anthologies Staying Alive, Being Alive and Being Human - but has added many others from elsewhere to create this deeply moving testament to humanity caught up in a hundred years of war. Like the trilogy, this is a world poetry anthology featuring poets from a variety of nations writing from different perspectives, experiences and cultures. Where possible, the poems from each war or conflict are presented chronologically in terms of when they were written or set, building up a picture of what individual poets from different nations were experiencing at the same time, either on the same battlegrounds or in other parts of the world (including the home front), with, for example, British, French and German poets all writing of shared experiences in opposite trenches during the five-month Battle of the Somme. At different stages of each war there are also poets responding events in their own countries. For example, in just one three-month period, from August to November 1944, Polish poets join the Warsaw Uprising, Miklos Radnoti is herded on a forced march from Serbia to Hungary (where he is killed), other Hungarian poets witness deportations to camps, Dylan Thomas voices the anguish of Londoners under V-bomb attack, and Louis Simpson is a foot soldier caught up in the chaotic Battle of the Bulge. Just as the original Hundred Years' War in the 14th and 15th centuries was actually a series of nationalistic conflicts rooted in disputes over territory, so it has been in the wars fought over the past century, but with even worse suffering inflicted on countries and people subjected to warfare and mass killing on a scale unimaginable in any earlier time. And yet amidst all that horror, there are individual voices bearing witness to our shared humanity, somehow surviving the folly with defiance and hope, yet often aware that the lessons of history are rarely passed on from one generation to the next. As Germany's Gunter Kunert writes in his poem 'On Certain Survivors' in which a man is dragged out from the debris of his shelled house: 'He shook himself | And said | Never again. || At least, not right away.' A new touring theatre production of The Hundred Years' War will be staged at arts centres, theatres, festivals and other venues around Britain from 2014 by Midland Creative Projects, following their highly successful Staying Alive, Being Alive and Being Human touring productions.

Passionfood: 100 Love Poems

Passionfood: 100 Love Poems

Author: Neil Astley Format: Hardback Release Date: 30/01/2014

Passionfood is a feast of classic and contemporary love poems. There are a hundred flavours in this four-course celebration of love, passion and desire. Compiled by Staying Alive editor Neil Astley, its menu is distinctively different from that of other anthologies of love poetry. There are no broken hearts here. Passionfood is a celebration of true love - love that grows into love that lasts, love that fills every part of our lives, love that never leaves us. Passionfood opens with a starter selection of poems about attraction, desire and longing. Passion is the main course: the excitement of love, being and staying in love, including many of the greatest poems in our literature - by writers such as Shakespeare, John Donne, Elizabeth Barrett Browning, Emily Dickinson, Yeats and Auden. For dessert, the book offers deliciously saucy poems by leading contemporary poets. But like love, Passionfood is a feast which doesn't have to end. The fruit that follows dessert offers still more poetry to savour: poems about deepening love and friendship, love that never leaves us, poems celebrating closeness, trust and mutual understanding, poems of joy, wisdom and shared recognition. Passionfood is a book of positive, provocative and witty love poems for everyone whose life has been nourished and sustained by love, mixing passion with food for thought. It's also a book which holds out hope, and as such, a perfect gift for the person you love, for weddings and engagements, birthdays, anniversaries and Valentine's Day. This new edition is beautifully presented in a quarter-bound hardback gift format.

World Record

World Record

Author: Neil Astley Format: Paperback Release Date: 02/08/2012

The World Record is an international anthology of work by poets from all the countries taking part in the 2012 London Olympics, featuring a poem from each of the 204 Olympic nations, from Armenia to Tuvalu, Azerbaijan to Turkmenistan. With this book you can discover the world through its keenest observers, political activists and most articulate wordsmiths. There's something for every taste: new voices as well as world greats, rappers and spoken word artists as well as poets and storytellers. The World Record marks the first time so many living poets from so many countries have been gathered together in one anthology - and 2012 is the first time so many poets have been gathered in one place. Up to 204 poets come together in London for Poetry Parnassus, a week-long celebratory gathering as part of the finale of the Cultural Olympiad, the Festival of the World and the London 2012 Festival. This visionary festival at London's Southbank Centre features poets from all participating Olympic nations giving readings, talks and performances. Poetry Parnassus is a monumental poetic happening worthy of the spirit and history of the Olympics. Introduced by the festival's curator, Simon Armitage, The World Record shows how poetry crosses all international boundaries to speak to readers everywhere.

Essential Poems from the Stayling Alive Trilogy

Essential Poems from the Stayling Alive Trilogy

Author: Neil Astley Format: Paperback Release Date: 24/05/2012

Staying Alive , Being Alive and Being Human have introduced many thousands of new readers to contemporary poetry, and have helped poetry lovers to discover the little known riches of world poetry. Each anthology in the Staying Alive trilogy has 500 poems to touch the heart, stir the mind and fire the spirit. These books have been enormously popular with readers, especially as gift books and bedside companions. The poems - by writers from many parts of the world - have emotional power, intellectual edge and playful wit. This new pocketbook selection of 100 essential poems from the trilogy is a Staying Alive travel companion (also available as an e-book). As well as selecting favourite poems from the trilogy - readers' and writers' choices as well as his own favourites - editor Neil Astley provides background notes on the poets and poems. This format makes it even more suitable as a gift book for all those people you're sure would love modern poetry if only they were familiar with these kinds of poems. These essential poems are all about being human, being alive and staying alive: about love and loss; fear and longing; hurt and wonder; war and death; grief and suffering; birth, growing up and family; time, ageing and mortality; memory, self and identity; faith, hope and belief; acceptance of inadequacy and making do - all of human life in a hundred highly individual, universal poems.

Ten Poems About Sheep Volume One

Ten Poems About Sheep Volume One

Author: Neil Astley Format: Pamphlet Release Date: 01/02/2012

Being Human The Companion Anthology to Staying Alive and Being Alive

Being Human The Companion Anthology to Staying Alive and Being Alive

Author: Neil Astley Format: Paperback Release Date: 01/03/2011

Being Human is the third book in the Staying Alive poetry trilogy. Staying Alive and its sequel Being Alive have introduced many thousands of new readers to contemporary poetry. Being Human is a companion volume to those two books - a world poetry anthology offering an even broader, international selection of 'real poems for unreal times'. The range of poetry here complements that of the first two anthologies: hundreds of thoughtful and passionate poems about living in the modern world; poems that touch the heart, stir the mind and fire the spirit; poems about being human, about love and loss, fear and longing, hurt and wonder. There are more great poems from the 20th century as well as many recent poems of rare imaginative power from the first decade of the 21st century. But this book is also rare in reflecting the concerns of readers from all walks of life. Such has been the appeal of Staying Alive and Being Alive that many people have written not only to express their appreciation of these books, but also to share poems which have been important in their own lives. Being Human draws on this highly unusual publisher's mailbag, including many talismanic personal survival poems suggested by our readers.

In Person: 30 Poets

In Person: 30 Poets

Author: Neil Astley Format: Paperback Release Date: 31/05/2008

Thirty poets from around the world read to you in person. This is a new concept in publishing: your own personal poetry festival brought into your home. Each poet reads to you for about ten minutes - up to half a dozen poems chosen from across the range of their work. In Person is a collaboration between Bloodaxe Books and award-winning film-maker Pamela Robertson-Pearce. Her style of filming combines directness and simplicity, sensitivity and warmth - the perfect combination for these intimate readings. It is as if the poet were sitting in the room with you, reading just to you, and sometimes saying a few things about the poems. Apart from one recording taken from a live public performance, all the films present informal, one-to-one readings. They enhance your appreciation of the poetry. You hear how the poems sound; you see how the poets read and present their work. T.S. Eliot once described poetry as 'one person talking to another', while W.H. Auden believed it was essential to hear poetry read aloud, for 'no poem, which when mastered, is not better heard than read is good poetry'. In Person presents the oral art of poetry in that spirit. There are four hours of readings on two DVDs pouched inside the back cover, and all the poems are printed in this book. In Person celebrates 30 years of poetry from a pioneering press. Founded in 1978, Bloodaxe has published nearly a thousand titles by three hundred writers. Until now you wouldn't be able to see or hear readings by many of Bloodaxe's international range of poets. In Person makes that possible for the first time, presenting readings by 30 essential voices from Britain, Ireland, America, Spain, Hungary, Palestine, Pakistan, China, New Zealand and the Caribbean. Four out of the 30 short films present the poets' work bilingually. Menna Elfyn's reading alternates between her Welsh poems and their English translations. Joan Margarit reads in Catalan in tandem with his translator Anna Crowe reading her English translations. Palestinian poet Taha Muhammad Ali reads in Arabic and then re-inhabits each poem as it is read in English by his translator Peter Cole. Yang Lian introduces his work in English, and reads the poems in Chinese. This anthology presents all their poems in both languages in a parallel-text format, enabling you to follow either language as the poems are read on the film. All the other readings are in English only, and in many varieties of English which will add greatly to your enjoyment and appreciation of the poetry: not just poems read in Scottish, Welsh and Irish English by Jackie Kay, W.N. Herbert, Gwyneth Lewis, Brendan Kennelly and Micheal O'Siadhail, but also George Szirtes' Hungarian-inflected English, Benjamin Zephaniah's melding of Jamaican and Birmingham, and the Caribbean lilt of John Agard and James Berry. The musical range of American voices is just as diverse, ranging from urban Detroit (Philip Levine) to the Ozark Mountains (C.D. Wright). There's also a 'bonus track': a short film of Bloodaxe's first poet, Ken Smith, made by Ivor Bowen just before Ken's untimely death.

Soul Food Nourishing Poems for Starved Minds

Soul Food Nourishing Poems for Starved Minds

Author: Neil Astley Format: Paperback Release Date: 10/05/2007

Soul Food is a feast of thoughtful poems to stir the mind and feed the spirit. Drawn from many traditions, ranging from Rumi, Kabir and Blake, to Rilke, Emily Dickinson and Paul Celan, this wide-ranging selection includes enormously varied work by celebrated contemporary poets such as Jane Hirshfield, Denise Levertov, Thomas Merton and Mary Oliver, as well as by many lesser-known writers from all periods and places. The anthology opens with a series of poems on human life and spiritual sustenance, starting with Rumi: 'This being human is a guest house./Each morning a new arrival...'. The poems which follow explore many ways of keeping body and soul together, offering food for thought on knowing yourself, living with nature, who or what is God...All are universal illuminations of the meaning of life, speaking to readers of all faiths as well as to searchers and non-believers. Soul Food shows how poetry can help feed our hunger for meaning in times of spiritual starvation.

Being Alive

Being Alive

Author: Neil Astley Format: Paperback Release Date: 28/10/2004

'Being Alive' is the sequel to Neil Astley's 'Staying Alive', which became Britain's most popular poetry book because it gave readers hundreds of thoughtful and passionate poems about living in the modern world. Now he has assembled this equally lively companion anthology for all those readers who've wanted more poems that touch the heart, stir the mind and fire the spirit. 'Being Alive' is about being human: about love and loss, fear and longing, hurt and wonder. 'Staying Alive' didn't just reach a broader readership, it introduced thousands of new readers to contemporary poetry, giving them an international gathering of poems of great personal force, poems with emotional power, intellectual edge and playful wit. It also brought many readers back to poetry, people who hadn't read poetry for years because it hadn't held their interest. 'Being Alive' gives readers an even wider selection of vivid, brilliantly diverse contemporary poetry from around the world. A third companion anthology, 'Being Human' (2011), completes this modern poetry trilogy.

Do Not Go Gentle

Do Not Go Gentle

Author: Neil Astley Format: Paperback Release Date: 25/09/2003

This volume of poetry provides a collection of funeral poems, appropriate for reading at a funeral or memorial service.

Pleased to See Me 69 Very Sexy Poems

Pleased to See Me 69 Very Sexy Poems

Author: Neil Astley Format: Paperback Release Date: 31/10/2002

Staying Alive

Staying Alive

Author: Neil Astley Format: Paperback Release Date: 01/01/2002

'Staying Alive' is an international anthology of 500 life-affirming poems fired by belief in the human and the spiritual at a time when much in the world feels unreal, inhuman and hollow. These are poems of great personal force connecting our aspirations with our humanity, helping us stay alive to the world and stay true to ourselves. Many people turn to poetry only at unreal times, whether for consolation in loss or affirmation in love, or when facing other extremes and anxieties. 'Staying Alive' includes many of the great modern love poems and elegies, but it also shows the power of poetry in celebrating the ordinary miracle, taking you on a journey around many of the different aspects of everyday life explored in poems. A strong poem is not just for crisis. Such a poem is there for all times, helping us face or embrace daily change and disruption. It will also speak to us when nothing seems to be happening, when the poem's importance is in helping us stay alive to the world and stay true to ourselves. 'Staying Alive' has reached a wider readership than any other anthology of contemporary poetry. It is a landmark in the history of literary publishing. A sequel, 'Being Alive' (2004), and a companion anthology, 'Being Human' (2011), complete this poetry trilogy .

Author Info

Author's Facebook

Find Neil Astley on Facebook