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Being Human The Companion Anthology to Staying Alive and Being Alive by Neil Astley

Being Human The Companion Anthology to Staying Alive and Being Alive

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Reviewed and selected by our poetry expert, Liam Parkin.

Neil Astley writes of poetry’s reputation as ‘obscure, elitist, difficult, dull, old fashioned...’ and so on. Astley’s anthology is certainly a reminder that poetry is in fact the exact opposite. As the third collection in the sequence of Staying Alive and Being Alive, it addresses the nature of us as humans, how we construct and perceive time and life; hosting a diverse range of poets and translations - from T. S Eliot, to Philip Larkin to Simon Armitage. Whether you are an academic, a poetry enthusiast, or a sceptic, this book will kindle or even rekindle a passion for poetry and our existence. Far reaching, highly engaging and entirely accessible, there lies a poem for everyone within these pages. It is certainly one of the best anthologies I have ever had the pleasure of reading, and I thoroughly recommend it to anyone.


Being Human The Companion Anthology to Staying Alive and Being Alive by Neil Astley

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.


I love Staying Alive and keep going back to it. Being Alive is just as vivid...but this new book feels even more alive - I think it has a heartbeat' - Meryl Streep

'These poems distil the human heart as nothing else - 'Staying Alive celebrates the point of poetry. It's invigorating and makes me proud of being human - Jane Campion

'Being Human, the final volume in Bloodaxe's acclaimed trilogy of anthologies, edited by Neil Astley...the first, Staying Alive (2002), ably demonstrated the power of a well-constructed anthology to introduce readers to vital new poets. I'll be expecting a copy of this one under my tree next Christmas morning' - Sarah Crown, Guardian

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Book Info

Publication date

1st March 2011


Neil Astley

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Bloodaxe Books Ltd


512 pages


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Poetry anthologies (various poets)



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