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Short and sweet poems and sonnets or lyrical and lengthy epics, sit back and relax while you enjoy the work of these wonderful wordsmiths.
Shortlisted for the T S Eliot Poetry Prize 2014. In The Stairwell, his tenth collection, Michael Longley's themes and forms reach a new intensity. The second part of the book is a powerful sequence of elegies for his twin brother, Peter, and the dominant mood elsewhere is elegiac. The title poem begins: 'I have been thinking about the music for my funeral ...' The two parts are also linked by Homer. Longley is well-known for his Homeric versions, and the Iliad is a presiding presence - both in poems about the Great War and in the range of imagery that gives his twin's death a mythic dimension. Yet funeral music can be life-affirming. Longley has built this collection on intricate doublings, not only when he explores the tensions of twinship. The psychologically suggestive word 'stairwell' is itself an ambiguous compound. These poems encompass birth as well as death, childhood and age, nature and art, the animal and human worlds, tenderness and violence, battlefield and 'homeland'.
Winner of the T S Eliot Poetry Prize 2014. Throughout the book - in the stark biography of 'Songs from the Same Earth', the troubling fractured narrative of 'A Dream Book', the harrowing lines of connection in four poems each titled 'Fire', or the cheek-by-jowl shudder of 'Sang the Rat' - Harsent writes, as always, with passion and a sureness of touch.
There are all the famous frontline poets - including Wilfred Owen, Siegfried Sassoon and Edward Thomas - but also civilians writing from the Home Front, including Rudyard Kipling and Vera Brittain. The poems are organised into themed chapters, ranging from the war in the air to the impact on families and sweethearts and even the contribution of animals. Two of the poems are previously unpublished gems by an airman called Eric Simson.
Shortlisted for the T S Eliot Poetry Prize 2014. 'Making is our defence against the dark...' Through images of conflict and craftsmanship, Ruth Padel's powerful new poems address the Middle East, tracing a quest for harmony in the midst of destruction. An oud, the central instrument of Middle Eastern music , is made and broken. An ancient synagogue survives attacks, a Palestinian boy in a West Bank refugee camp learns capoeira, and a guide shows us Bethlehem's Church of the Nativity during a siege. At the heart of the book are Christ's last words from the Cross. Uniting this moving collection is the common ground shared by Judaism, Christianity and Islam: a vision of human life as pilgrimage and struggle but also as music and making. With care and empathy, Ruth Padel suggests how rifts in the Holy Land speak to conflict in our own hearts. 'We identify. Some chasm / through the centre must be in and of us all.'
Shortlisted for the Costa Poetry Award 2014. Winner of the 2014 Forward Prize for Best Collection. We watch as the cartographer, used to the scientific methods of assuming control over a place by mapping it, is gradually compelled to recognize--even to envy--a wholly different understanding of place, as he tries to map his way to the rastaman's eternal city of Zion. As the book unfolds the cartographer learns that, on this island of roads that constrict like throats, every place-name comes freighted with history, and not every place that can be named can be found.
Shortlisted for the T S Eliot Poetry Prize 2014. This is shortlisted for the Forward Prize for Best First Collection. The poems move on archaeological fast-forward from submerged Devonian forests and a Paleolithic cave-bear skull to the site of decommissioned submarines at HMNB Devonport, where the sea is 'still a torpedo-path, / an Armageddon road'. She explores the shared human continuum of bodily longing - from the Prehistoric maker of a wooden fertility fetish, to a modern-day couple wading through summer pollen - and the timeless cycles of conception, birth and child-rearing. A central sequence of dramatic monologues addressed to Van Gogh allows for a focussed exploration of depression, violence, passion and creativity. In these poems, as in all the poems in this impressive debut, we feel keenly the sense of life lived at the edge of threat - catastrophe, even - but also on the cusp of beauty and happiness. Other poems about the bewildering loss of miscarriage are hard to read and impossible to forget, moving with grace and authority through great grief to arrive at a hard-won destination of selfless, unqualified love. 'I remember again the corridor of the labour ward and that woman sitting weeping with her man having given birth to a death small grey face, no breath, something you cannot help but love - habibi, akushla, I go home alone but carry you, courie you, little slipped thing, to the ends of the earth.'
Shortlisted for the T S Eliot Poetry Prize 2014. LETTER COMPOSED DURING A LULL IN THE FIGHTING captures the many moments that comprise a soldier's life: driving down the Texas highway; waiting for the unknown in the dry Iraq heat; writing a love letter; listening to a mother recount her dreams. Written with honesty and insight, these poems strive to make sense of war and its echoes through human experience. Just as THE YELLOW BIRDS was hailed as the 'first literary masterpiece produced by the Iraq war,' (Los Angeles Times) this collection will prove to be a powerful, enduring classic.
Shortlisted for the T S Eliot Poetry Prize 2014. Hugo Williams is rightly cherished for his inimitable fusion of autobiography and irony, and a technical glide that allows his writing to 'slip back to the past as effortlessly as a dreamer' (The Times). I Knew the Bride is Williams' eleventh collection of poems, and his first since West End Final was shortlisted for both the T. S. Eliot and Forward prizes for poetry in 2009. This new volume bears - and lays bare - those qualities that have become so characteristic of his work: his unflinching survey of his childhood and adult life alike, alighting on moments of vivacity from his upbringing in a theatrical family in the 1940s and 50s (the title poem a touching tribute to his late sister) through to the romantic peaks and pains of his adult years. Straight-talking, self-deprecating and funny, these recklessly accountable inspections are set against a Williams-esk miscellany of day-to-day backdrops that readers have come to treasure: of record collections, kitchen sinks, shopping bicycles, hotels, bedrooms.
An ebullient collection of favourite Scottish rhymes and songs for adults to read to their children. These verses show how the old rhymes are still popular with children – despite the arrival of newer technologies - and that they are inspiring the creation of new versions with a contemporary twist. Armed with this collection no adult will ever be short of a rhyme or a song!
Shortlisted for the Costa Poetry Award 2014. When Chaucer composed Troilus and Criseyde he gave us, some say, his finest poem, and with it one of the most captivating love stories ever written. A Double Sorrow, Lavinia Greenlaw's new work, takes its title from the opening line of that poem in a fresh telling of this most tortured of love affairs. Set against the Siege of Troy, A Double Sorrow is the story of Trojan hero Troilus and his beloved Criseyde, whose traitorous father has defected to the Greeks and has persuaded them to ask for his daughter in an exchange of prisoners. In an attempt to save her, Troilus suggests that Criseyde flees the besieged city with him, but she knows that she will be universally condemned and looks instead to a temporary measure: pretending to submit to the exchange, while promising Troilus that she will return to him within ten days. But once in the company of the Greeks she soon realises the impossibility of her promise to Troilus, and in despair succumbs to another. Lavinia Greenlaw's pinpoint retelling of this heart-wrenching tale is neither a translation nor strictly a 'version' of Chaucer's work, but instead creates something new: a sequence of glimpses from the medieval poem that refine the psychological drama of the classical story through a process of detonation or amplification of image and phrase into original poems. In a series of skillfully crafted seven-line vignettes, the author creates a zoetrope that serves to illuminate the intensity with which these characters argue each other and themselves into and out of love. The result is a breathtaking and shattering read -contemporary and timeless - that builds into an unforgettable telling of this most heartbreaking of love stories.
Winner of the Costa Poetry Award 2014. The superheroes in question are a motley crew. Evel Knievel, Sophia Loren, Ian Rush, Marty McFly, a bicycling nun and a recalcitrant hippo - all leap from these pages and jostle for position, alongside valleys mams, dads and bamps, described with great warmth. Other poems focus on the crammed terraces and abandoned high streets where a working-class and Welsh nationalist politics is hammered out. This is a post-industrial valleys upbringing re-imagined through the prism of pop culture and surrealism. If the author's subjects have something in common with RS Thomas, or even Terry Street-era Douglas Dunn, his technique and approach owe at least as much to contemporary American poets like James Tate and David Wojahn.
This is shortlisted for the 2014 T.S. Eliot Prize and the Forward Prize for Best Collection. In this absorbing, brilliant new collection - his first since Black Cat Bone - John Burnside examines our shared experience of this mortal world: how we are 'all one breath' and - with that breath - how we must strive towards the harmony of choir. Recognising that our attitudes to other creatures - human and non-human - cause too much damage and hurt, that 'we've been going at this for years: a steady delete of anything that tells us what we are', these poems celebrate the fleeting, charged moments where, through measured and gracious encounters with other lives, we find our true selves, and bring some brief, insubstantial goodness and beauty into being. He presents the world in a series of still lifes, in tableaux vivants and tableaux morts, in laboratory tests, anatomy lessons, in a Spiegelkabinett where the reflections in the mirrors, distorted as they seem, reveal buried truths. All the images are in some sense self-portraits: all are, in some way, elegies. One of the finest and most celebrated lyric poets at work today, John Burnside is a master of the moment - when the frames of our film seem to slow and stop and a life slips through the gap in between - and each poem here is a perfect, uncanny hymn to humanity, set down 'to tell the lives of others'.
From the Haiku to Xanadu, a well-crafted poem can speak of an experience of our world in a way that stays with us for a long time; often for life. Everyone has a poem they learned in school that holds increased sentimental importance as time goes by.
The ability of words and language to define us and the poet’s ability to harness it are what makes poetry such a powerful genre. The field is huge, the subjects covered too numerous to list. From the fields of Flanders to the kitchen sink there are poems that encapsulate all of human life. Funny, thought-provoking, challenging, evocative, story-telling, satire and tribute. All are here. Why not use our special recommendations to find something to inspire you today?