Wednesday, 29 December 2010

Books of the Year: Day Four: Poetry

A rhapsodic top of the mornin' to you all on this foggiest of days. Welcome to Day Four of my Books of the Year - in which I give you some poetical delights. Here they come...

1. Faber New Poets 5 by Joe Dunthorne

This little pamphlet showcases the brilliantly ironic, often delicately beautiful talent of the young poet Joe Dunthorne (whose zanily dark first novel, Submarine, was published a couple of years ago). The poems reward re-reading - they explore friendship, memory, childhood and more, all with a sideways, intelligent glance. I look forward to more.

2. In the Flesh by Adam O'Riordan

Another promising debut by a fellow Oxford-ite (and, according to Tatler, Britain's Sexiest Poet), displaying a matured voice, and tackling a range of subjects in careful, studied form that shows both great control and passion.

3. Hesiod's Calendar by Robert Saxton

An excellent adaptation of possibly one of the dullest poems to come out of Greek literature, this is much better than the original. Split into two halves, The Theogony and Works and Days, the poem achieves a lightness of touch and wit that doesn't conceal the harshness of Hesiod's depiction of life.

4. The School Bag edited by Ted Hughes and Seamus Heaney

I read this all the way through in August. It's extremely satisfying to feel the shape of the themes rise up in your mind as you read - they are collected according to a vague, undisclosed scheme - as one moves from the sea, through animals, life, death. There are some true gems here, as well as some of the more canonically recognised poems. My only criticism is that there was too much folky stuff, which does not repay careful reading.

5. Human Chain by Seamus Heaney

Initially I didn't like this very much: but after dipping in a few times, one can appreciate the real craftsmanship of the poems. They seem to be about the ameliorative power of work - the 'human chain' being a physical chain of people passing sacks, as well as a 'chain' of poetry - and also to be hugely aware of death, with Virgil's Book VI (the descent into the underworld) looming large.

Well then, off I go. See you tomorrow for the final list: children's books. Ciao!

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