Flash Reviews: Poetry (12th June 2014)

Forward Book of Poetry 2014 by Various Poets ***
1. I spotted this on my library’s online catalogue and requested it.  I love discovering new poets, and reading such an anthology was a marvellous way in which to do so.
2. The foreword to the book is written by Jeanette Winterson, which is rather cool.  She was one of the prize’s previous judges, and she talks about how important poetry is in the world: ‘Poetry is a practical art.  You can rely on it.  It will not break under your weight’.
3. I love the variety here and have discovered some wonderful poets – Sinead Morrissey, Claire Trevien and Marianne Burton to name but three – but the entire collection was not quite as enjoyable, memorable or unique as I thought it would be.

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‘Bee Journal’

Bee Journal by Sean Borodale ****
1. I was attracted to Bee Journal for three reasons – the title, the beautiful cover, and the fact that Carol Ann Duffy (one of my favourite contemporary poets) praises it highly.
2. The idea of Bee Journal is a marvellous and, I think, rather unique.  It is a ‘poem journal of beekeeping that chronicles the life of the hive…  The book is filled with moments of revelation – particularly between the domestic and the wild’.  The poems are told both from the perspective of the nameless beekeeper, and the bees who inhabit the hive.
3. Borodale uses language beautifully and sparingly, and some of his turns of phrase are truly lovely.

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Of Mutability – Jo Shapcott ****
1. I read this sumptuous poetry book in a single sitting, and was so very impressed by it.
2. Whilst I did not adore all of the poems in Of Mutability, they linger in the mind; they are beautiful and startling on the whole.
3. I am so pleased that I picked this up on a whim from the library, and I shall be hunting out more of Shapcott’s work in future.  I heartily recommend her to everyone who appreciates the written word.

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Dart – Alice Oswald ****
1. I love the idea of Dart; it is one continuous poem which tells the story of the River Dart in Dartmoor.  It takes into consideration the perspectives of so many people and animals who come into contact with it along its course.  Oswald writes the following in her short introduction: ‘Over the past two years, I’ve been recording conversations with people who know the river.  I’ve used these records as life-models from which to sketch out a series of characters – linking their voices into a sound-map of the river, a songline from the source to the sea…  All voices should be read as the river’s mutterings’.
2. I love the different poetical styles which Oswald has used throughout.  They serve to make each portion of the poem distinct, whilst still linking it with those portions which appear before and after it.  Each part blends seamlessly into the next throughout.
3. Oswald discusses so many elements of the river – its course, wildlife and the ways in which animals use its resources, and the people who encounter the river for different purposes – anglers and naturalists, for example.

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