Mab Jones’ latest appreciation of new poetry opens with an appreciation of Wordsworth – William’s sister Dorothy that is – but never fear, it’s still new! And it’s, as Mab says of her first subject, “a sheer joy to read”.
Drawn from the diaries of Dorothy Wordsworth, sister of the famous flower and foothill-loving poet, Something so wild and new in this feeling by Sarah Doyle (V. Press, price: £6.50) creates something that feels wild as well as new by collaging and collating lines from the diarist and, with these, forming a range of poems that distill Wordsworth’s voice whilst also sparkling into something fresh and original. Retaining the accessibility and direct gaze of Wordsworth’s writing, Doyle transcends this through her clever collections from the original works, bringing together choice extracts which result in poems themed around the repetition of words / images – clouds, rain, the sea – as well as phrases, for example those based on the heart or home.
The contemporary poet brings these selected snippets together with all the care and consideration of a professional florist – or expert in Ikebana – resulting in marvellously original pieces that are a sheer joy to read. The poem about walking, which also manages to rhyme, the rhythm of the lines strolling along as you journey through it and alongside the I of the poem, was a particular favourite. A lovely book by a lovely writer, this wondrous volume makes a great accompaniment, compendium, or introduction to the original journals, too.
I was delighted to receive two stylish tomes from Blue Diode Press this month. The first, A Secret Life by Milan Děžinský (price: £10), was a revelation. I don’t think I can outdo the testimonial by poet Clare Pollard on the back cover, which refers to the poem containing an image of the ‘celery’s fuse’. Before having read the blurb, that was an image that stayed with me, and is a poem I’d recommend everyone to read. Děžinský is a master of the most original, evocative images, and there are a huge range of similes in this collection, too, sometimes several within a single poem.
These are often fresh and surprising, and might seem to some readers at odds with the ennui and nihilism of the poet’s subject matter and tone – except, for me personally, I’ve always found this inventiveness and despairing sense to go together. Isn’t it at our lowest, most frustrated points that we become our most witty? Maybe I’ve hung out with too many comedians in my time but, in any case, I found this mix to be quite delicious, and it’s perhaps best summarised by the final lines of the book, in which two people depart from each other but it is described as like “a well being filled”. Emptiness and fullness, connection and solitude, go hand in hand in this clever, cool collection, that is set in the everyday, but seen through the eyes of a wry, very witty, writer.
Decade Of Cu ts by nicky melville (price: £12) is the second Blue Diode gem, this time a “new and selected” offering of verse by a poet described as “Scotland’s favourite underground provocateur”. Politics and ideology are key themes here, but they are discussed in a dissecting, dissident sort of way, with some despair but also an anger that’s channeled, here and there, into satire. Poem titles such as Social Security, not working, The Royal Bank of Scotland and money point to these concerns; however, these sit alongside poems with names like Baby Spinach, thought experiment 1934, slippage piggsclap and I love poetry but prefer sex, showcasing the poet’s humour and irreverence.
Like Děžinský, melville’s poems are based on his own life and observations, and are full of autobiographical interest – “I am eighteen years old. / I am unemployed / and have no means of income”. But also there’s a sense of fun, plenty of experimentation, profound self-awareness, and infused within the collection is the writer’s own curiosity and ability to turn his hand to art, music, and more. There are visual poems, cut up poems, black out poems, found poems, resultantly. And, in all, it’s a really wonderful mix, with a mischievous, mashup sort of energy, and an often Shrigley-ish sense of the absurd.
Finally, an anthology. Everything Is Going To Be All Right (Trapeze, price: £14.99) is edited by Cecilia Knapp, the current Young People’s Laureate for London. Billed as a collection of “poems for when you really need them”, this is a book which aims to do what so many others have done, and what I feel is one of poetry’s greatest abilities: to soothe, reassure, offer hope, and let us know – through reading words by others in similar straits or circumstances – that we are not alone. Here, works of classic verse sit alongside some very new, very now works, but what all have in common is that they are incredibly well written and marvellously affecting. Hence, there are some pieces in here which have definitely done the rounds on social media, if not gone viral; and it’s a treat to reread them, now, placed within this very beautiful, thoughtfully arranged hardback book.
Particularly brilliant is the fact that so many of the poems are by writers of class or colour that are rarely to be seen in older, more ‘canon’-based anthologies. Many of the writers, too, are women. I think, if I had to recommend a book to readers and writers of poetry which was not Bloodaxe’s excellent Staying Alive anthology, this would be my next choice, and my first for anyone wanting to know about poetry right now. A breathtaking book of profoundly wonderful poems; my thanks to Spread The Word for sending me a copy.
words and photos MAB JONES