Tag Archives: Bloodaxe Books

Sally Read writes about her poem ‘Breaking Fish Necks’

© Image by Emidio Gorgoretti

  
 
 
Sally Read is the author of two books of poetry, both published by Bloodaxe Books in the United Kingdom. The first, The Point of Splitting, was published in 2005 and was shortlisted for the Jerwood-Aldeburgh prize for best first collection. The second, Broken Sleep, came out in 2009. Her work has been recorded for the Poetry Archive and anthologised in The Forward Book of Poetry 2006, Bloodaxe’s Identity Parade (2009) and The Picador Book of Love Poetry (2011) among others. Sally’s poetry has been translated into Italian and a Selected Poems in Italian is in the pipeline. In 2001, she was the recipient of an Eric Gregory Award. She has worked as a teacher and a psychiatric nurse and is poet in residence at The Hermitage of the Three Holy Hierarchs.
 
 
 
 
*
 
 
 
 
What do anal sex and fishing have in common? This was the question I was most asked after I read what was for a while my best known poem, ‘Breaking Fish Necks’. In the poem the protagonist has anal sex for the first time. I stopped using it at readings; I didn’t include it on my Poetry Archive cd. I felt it would become a ‘signature poem’ and I disliked the knowing leers and questions from male members of the audience that it provoked. Then, Mia Lecomte, organiser and director of May 28th’s Madrigne for La Compagnia Delle Poete, included its Italian translation in the script. I called her up and told her I’d rather not perform it. But she pushed my writer-buttons: it’s a fine poem, it’s significant, it isn’t titillating. Plus the script is written.
 
When my Italian husband went through it with me in Italian he freaked, “Santo Dio!”. The mother in law has been shipped over from Sardinia to babysit so he can drive me and my tough New Yorker friend Rosie (who’s been through everything from armed burglary to 9/11) to the venue and steal me out through a side-door afterwards, under a blanket. As Rosie drawled when she read the script
 
“Honey, are you sure you wanna do this? You don’t wanna be the poet who took it up the Hershey tunnel.”
 
Why do people assume poems are real, and what’s in a poem is what a poet has done? Well, mostly because it’s true. Most of my poems are, in some way, an account of what I’ve personally been through. Except the exceptions. Anal sex is a thing I’ll bet most women have been confronted with, even if, ultimately, like me, they opted for anal virginity.
 
“What is it with men and the ass these days?” Samantha in Sex and the City asked (in the days when it was a fairly intelligent examination of the modern mating game). Yeah, what is it? Most men seem to want it (not all). The man at the centre of the poem ‘Breaking Fish Necks’ was always after it. And he gave me my favourite ever lines from a decade of dating in London:
 
Me: “You’re telling me you’re leaving first thing in the morning, that you don’t even want to spend the weekend together, and you want to have anal sex with me?”
 
Him: “We’d be having anal sex not building a shed.”
 
This same guy used to fish when he was a lad – out with his pa on the Great Lakes, bonding, drinking beer, and doing guy-things. But he stopped because he couldn’t stand breaking the fish’s neck. His dad thought it was more humane to snap the neck than let the fish flap about and suffocate on the bank. What a sweetie my guy was. And then I got to thinking (as Carrie Bradshaw might have said before she sold out to foreign location and greed), how this same guy was intent on us performing what, for me, would have been a painful, unhygienic, and ersatz act. I asked around friends: Who had, who hadn’t. The nearest I got to consent was a friend who told me it was “The agony and the ecstasy”. Oh, and someone I worked with: “Well, if it keeps ‘em happy” (bless them).
 
The poem, it strikes me (at a distance of eleven years since the writing of it, it does seem penned by someone else) is about women not breaking. The man able to intimately dominate and undo a woman, and not have her fall apart. The desire to illicitly find the nub, the rub, the kernel that is nothing to do with her womanhood and the gift she has of creation. And not kill her. Not really. Unlike the fish “too easily become the dead weight of flesh …” She is easier to play with. To walk away from.
 
The poem almost became classified as an ‘erotic poem’ – a label I strenuously resist for it and all the sex poems in my first book The Point of Splitting. Now I’m out of the London dating game, I see the willingness of a lot of women (not all) to feed desires that have nothing to do with love or procreation as sad. Many of us are help-mates in the perpetuation of our own loneliness, or ultimately, childlessness. About to turn forty, my peer-group is witnessing the impact on women of a legacy of contraception, abortion, and work-above-all-else. Women who, suddenly, want a baby. After two decades of assiduously trying not to fall pregnant, it’s now not so easy. The term ‘Culture of Death’ springs simply and silently to mind.
 
The vagina has become a second class erogenous zone.
 
How, in hell, did we let that happen?
 
 
 
 
*
 
 
 
 
Breaking Fish Necks
 
The next afternoon we tried anal sex
and as you coaxed my neck with your thumbs
 
I thought of Wolf’s Creek
and the fish you wouldn’t catch,
 
plump trout necks you couldn’t bear to break
and take home dead to your mother.
 
In the warmth I knew my arse
was soft, the downy peach.
 
But what was beyond drew you in:
a core, sensitive, harsh
 
like a peachstone –
its coarse ridges, fine strings
 
caught in grooves
where flesh is torn raggedly away.
 
Here, at the kernel
of spine, cat’s-cradle of muscle,
 
you tried to undo me, cupping my hips
with your hands, breaking me patiently.
 
As we paused, I did loosen
but held together
 
around this hardness,
in the brace of your arms
 
till we rolled apart
and I healed slowly over.
 
You stopped fishing years ago.
You only used the stillness,
 
the bronze film of water
to will the fish deeper.
 
You couldn’t watch them
choke on air or feel the snap
 
of delicate bones
between forefinger and thumb.
 
Or walk the mile home
swigging a beer
 
with a wet chill on your hands,
and flashes of silver skin
 
too easily become
the dead weight of flesh
 
slung at the bottom
of your pack.
 
 
 
 
from The Point of Splitting (Bloodaxe Books, 2005).
 
Order The Point of Splitting.
 
Order Broken Sleep.
 
Visit Sally’s blog, The Far-Near.
 
Read more of Sally’s poems at The Poetry Archive and The Poem.
 
 
 
 
*

Looking forward

  
 
Here are a few anthologies and collections that I’m looking forward to reading in 2011.
 
What should I add to my list?
  
 
Being Human, edited by Neil Astley (Bloodaxe)
 
Catulla et al, Tiffany Atkinson (Bloodaxe)
 
Neptune Blue, Simon Barraclough (Salt)
 
The Tempest Prognosticator, Isobel Dixon (Salt)
 
Egg Printing Explained, Katy Evans-Bush (Salt)
 
Occasional China, Gaia Holmes (Comma Press)
 
Rubber Orchestras, Anthony Joseph (Salt)
 
The Book of Men, Dorianne Laux (W W Norton)
 
The Best British Poetry 2011, edited by Roddy Lumsden (Salt)
 
The Frost Fairs, John McCullough (Salt)
 
The Exile’s House, Ian Parks (Waterloo Press)
 
Emporium, Ian Pindar (Carcanet)
 
Changeling, Clare Pollard (Bloodaxe)
 
Breaking Silence, Jacob Sam-La Rose (Bloodaxe)
 
The Kitchen of Lovely Contraptions, Jacqueline Saphra
(Flipped Eye)
 
The Itchy Sea, Mark Waldron (Salt)
 
Confer, Ahren Warner (Bloodaxe)
 
Electric Shadow, Heidi Williamson (Bloodaxe)
 
House of Tongues, Susan Wicks (Bloodaxe)
 
The City with Horns, Tamar Yoseloff (Salt)
 
 
 

Joanne Limburg: Five Poems

Joanne Limburg

  
Joanne Limburg grew up in NW London. Her first poetry collection, Femenismo, was published by Bloodaxe in 2000, and was shortlisted for the Forward Prize for Best First Collection; her second, Paraphernalia, came out in 2007 and was a Poetry Book Society Recommendation. She recently published The Woman Who Thought Too Much, a memoir about anxiety and poetry. Joanne lives in Cambridge with her husband and son.
 
 
 
An Offering
 
A set of Trivial Pursuit, another of possible genes; a pear tree,
a tortoise, the ants in the garden; sick and silly jokes, a satellite
to bounce them seven hours ahead and back again.
 
The remote control, the microphone; the meaning and import
of certain remarks; the final word, the winning card; the truth
about who started what.
 
Superior height; Bar Mitzvah gifts, a tallis in a tallis bag; a First,
a PhD, a lab; a certain way with lucid dreams; a ride-on mower,
an early out.
 
Computer games on audiotape; copies of works by Stanislas Lem;
two Emu puppets, two Snoopy dolls; the very last time I made
you laugh; whatever you were thinking.
 
Ageing skin, stiffening joints; a slender orange vase from Gumps;
the joke about Dave who knew the Pope; one facetious birthday
card; however many years.
  
  
  
Your Lawn
 
Rabbits copy and paste themselves
across a lawn the size of an English churchyard.
 
Green light shrieks off imported grass,
bred to take the heat once dry,
 
now saturated from the reservoirs
they built to feed the sprinklers.
 
It’s a lawn for looking at
and mowing. Not for stepping on:
 
along with shrieking light and rabbits,
it’s a home to chiggers,
 
waiting to hop on board your pasty foreign legs
and burrow in, and itch.
 
You buy a ride-on mower,
admire your mown and sprinkled lawn
 
from the safety of the porch.
With all your care, and reservoirs,
 
the grass has taken well. You hope you can,
though you weren’t bred to take the heat.
 
 
 
Dem Bones
 
Here’s a live body. Out of custom,
I call it mine. I’ve laid it out
on a table, or valley bottom,
knees up, feet flat
a hip’s width apart.
 
I’m told to allow
my neck to soften, to lengthen
my spine, unlock an elbow,
unlock the other one,
permit the weight of bone
 
to work it out with gravity.
I tell the ceiling
I find this hard. In a valley
I can only think of running,
and as I speak, my breathing
 
shallows, prompting a voice
from somewhere to remark
how wonderful it is
that I should live, when I take
so little air. But still I live. I wake
 
each morning, as I am caused to,
and when I do, I feel the possibility
of movement in the sinew
and know that it will shift my bones all day
again, though they are very dry.
 
 
 
Interior
 
A straight road, a rectangular state.
Over our heads, an endless, unravelling
bolt of blue. A hundred miles
off dead centre, where they celebrate
 
the regular every day, I feel
like a very small dot winking
across a vast, flat screen.
Either this place isn’t real,
 
or I’m not. To prove I’m not the figment,
I speak my thought: ‘I’ve never been
to the interior before…’
but all that comes out is an accent.
 
 
 
On Holiday with Cotard
 
Honestly, the season’s over. The sun’s
its proper grudging self again,
 
the trees have given back their borrowed green,
flies are laying final clutches, and soon
 
they’ll rest in spider-silk. Rest forever,
rest you well. Now it’s time for everyone to relax,
 
the really thorough way, as you can when everything you fear
the most has happened already
 
and so you float on loose, float empty
just like the jellyfish, the moons and manes
 
that blister the sea on the Baltic Coast,
no longer pumping, and therefore not alive.
 
 
 
Visit Joanne’s website.
 
Order Joanne’s books.
 
Visit Joanne’s Bloodaxe author page.
 
Visit Joanne’s Atlantic Books page.

Helen Ivory’s The Breakfast Machine

Helen Ivory

    
Helen Ivory was born in Luton in 1969, and lives in Norwich. She has worked in shops, behind bars, on building sites and with several thousand free-range hens. She has studied painting and photography and has a Degree from Norwich School of Art. In 1999 she won an Eric Gregory Award.
   
She has published three collections with Bloodaxe Books, The Double Life of Clocks (2002), The Dog in the Sky (2006) and The Breakfast Machine (April 2010). She was awarded an Arts Council writer’s bursary in 2005 and in 2008 an Author’s Foundation Grant. She has taught creative writing for Continuing Education at the University of East Anglia for nine years and has been Academic Director there for five. She is an editor for the Poetry Archive, a tutor for the Arvon Foundation and is currently studying for a PhD in Creative and Critical Writing at UEA.
   
   
    
 
 
About The Breakfast Machine
  
       
Inside The Breakfast Machine a chicken on squeaky tin legs is cooking you eggs and a squirrel plays tape-recorded birdsong high up in a tree. The Horsemen of the Apocalypse high-tail it into town as cowboys, and the fate of the world is decided by a game of cards.
    
The Breakfast Machine is driven by the transformations of fairytale where the dark corners of childhood are explored and found to be alive and well in offices, kitchens and hen-houses.
    
There is more than a hint of East European darkness in Helen Ivory’s third collection, which sits more comfortably alongside the animations of Jan Svankmajer than any English poetic tradition.
    
  
‘Helen Ivory creates a troubled yet beguiling world rich in irony and disquiet. She possesses a strongly-grounded narrative voice which, combined with her dextrous transformative takes both on reality and on what lies beyond reality’s surface, puts one in mind of the darker side of Stevie Smith who said that poetry “is a strong explosion in the sky”. The Breakfast Machine is such an explosion in the sky of contemporary poetry.’
    
– Penelope Shuttle
   
     
*
       
   
The Breakfast Machine
Helen Ivory
 
Behind a wood sliding door
the whistling and grinding
of a great machine
brings us slowly, inexorably
towards breakfast.
 
Even the keenest eyes
of the imagination,
will not inform you
what kind of alchemy
is at work there.
 
The chicken is the thing
that troubles me most,
as she crosses the kitchen
on squeaky tin legs
emerges at the serving hatch
 
cocks her head to one side,
takes in the room
with the bead of an eye
shrieks out with a voice
like grating glass:
 
Scrambled, poached, boiled,
scrambled, poached, boiled
.
  
  
 
  
Dolls
Helen Ivory

 
This one’s child has emptied her tears
into its heart and turned it to salt.
Poor salt doll,
there’s no end to her sorrows.
 
*
 
There’s always someone to do your dirty work,
always someone
with plucked-out eye,
with snapped-off hands.
 
*
 
A froufrou legion
with wide-awake eyes
in the junkshop window,
they have all lost their names.
 
*
 
Made of wax
they will inherit the earth
if that’s what you want –
there’s all manner of spells.
  
  
  
 
A Little Spell in Six Lessons
Helen Ivory
 
after Ana Maria Pacheco
  
*
 
You must first mask
your human self,
then forget your tongue.
Learn to talk as birds
or cloven hoofed things.
  
*
  
To lose yourself
is a very particular art.
If you want ever to be found
scatter breadcrumbs,
pray the birds are not hungry.
  
*
  
I will tell you a story
of the dark corners
that hold us in place,
of the chandelier of bones,
the wind whistling through teeth.
  
*
  
Your body is a sheet
of blank paper
and the birds have eaten
their fill of your path.
They have pecked out your eyes.
  
*
  
Now see afresh,
see what you’ve become!
Your words are butterflies
pinned to your tongue –
release them.
  
*
  
And what you hold
is perhaps what you wished for
as you sang as a child
in your feathered chair
when the world was asleep.
  
  
  
 
Tea Party
Helen Ivory

 
It was a tea-party like any other tea-party,
the tide was way out, and the table
up to its knees in black glacial sand.
 
Alice and the White Rabbit shakily balanced
on beach-balls, inched closer to the empty chairs
that sat either side of me and the sleepy mouse.
 
White noise from an invisible waterfall
seemed to hide inside china cups
like sea in a shell if I put my ear to them.
 
You were nowhere to be seen, but your voice
bumped round the walls of my skull,
left soggy cake crumbs in the dregs of my tea.
 
 
 
 
Published in The Breakfast Machine (Bloodaxe, 2010).
  
Pre-order The Breakfast Machine at The Book Depository or Amazon.
  
Visit Helen’s Bloodaxe author page.
  
  
Read Helen’s poems, ‘Office Block’, ‘My Grandmother’s Ghost’ and
‘Making Rain’.
      
Read two of Helen’s poems – ‘How to make a pot of tea’ and
‘The Orange Seller’ – in Horizon Review’s third issue.
      
Listen to four poems at PoetCasting.

A poetry list

I thought I’d share a few poetry titles I’m looking forward to reading this year. Some have recently been published, some are not yet available. If you’re interested in buying copies online, do make a note of their publication dates or ask your online book store to let you know when they become available.
     
Four of the poets are relatively new to me – Elisabeth Bletsoe (Pharmacopoeia & Early Selected Works), Mary O’Donnell (The Ark Builders), Carolyn Jess-Cooke (Inroads) and Anna Robinson (The Finders of London) – and I’m looking forward to becoming better acquainted with their work.
   
I greatly enjoyed Naomi Foyle’s bold, imaginative and sensuous collection, The Night Pavilion, and am looking forward to her pamphlet, Grace of the Gamblers – A Chantilly Chantey (Waterloo Press), illustrated by Peter Griffiths.
  
Philippa Yaa de Villiers’s second collection The Everyday Wife, published by the intrepid South African women’s publisher Modjaji Books, follows her popular first collection, Taller than buildings. As a poet living in South Africa, I’d like to mention how proud I am of the strong, beautiful books sent into the world by Modjaji.
   
Helen Ivory’s The Breakfast Machine (Bloodaxe), Pascale Petit’s What the Water Gave Me – Poems after Frida Kahlo (Seren), Katie Donovan’s Rootling (Bloodaxe) and Penelope Shuttle’s Sandgrain and Hourglass (Bloodaxe), have been long awaited. Their previous collections – The Dog in the Sky (Ivory), The Treekeeper’s Tale (Petit), Day of the Dead (Donovan) and Redgrove’s Wife (Shuttle) – are favourites and occupy the top shelf of my poetry bookcase.
  
Edited by Bernardine Evaristo and Daljit Nagra, Ten: New Poets from Spread the Word (Bloodaxe) will be available later this year. The anthology aims to reflect “the multicultural make-up of contemporary Britain” and to showcase the work of talented poets such as Mir Mahfuz Ali, Rowyda Amin, Malika Booker, Roger Robinson, Karen McCarthy, Nick Makoha, Denise Saul, Seni Seniviratne, Shazea Quraishi and Janet Kofi Tsekpo.
   
Identity Parade: New British & Irish Poets, also published by Bloodaxe and edited by Roddy Lumsden, promises to be a feast. I hope, as I’m typing this, my copy is winging its way south from the United Kingdom.
  
Identity Parade includes poetry from Patience Agbabi, Jonathan Asser, Tiffany Atkinson, Simon Barraclough, Paul Batchelor, Kate Bingham, Julia Bird, Patrick Brandon, David Briggs, Andy Brown, Judy Brown, Colette Bryce, Matthew Caley, Siobhan Campbell, Vahni Capildeo, Melanie Challenger, Kate Clanchy, Polly Clark, Julia Copus, Sarah Corbett, Claire Crowther, Tim Cumming, Ailbhe Darcy, Peter Davidson, Nick Drake, Sasha Dugdale, Chris Emery, Bernardine Evaristo, Paul Farley, Leontia Flynn, Annie Freud, Alan Gillis, Jane Griffiths, Vona Groarke, Jen Hadfield, Sophie Hannah, Tracey Herd, Kevin Higgins, Matthew Hollis, A.B. Jackson, Anthony Joseph, Luke Kennard, Nick Laird, Sarah Law, Frances Leviston, Gwyneth Lewis, John McAuliffe, Chris McCabe, Helen Macdonald, Patrick McGuinness, Kona Macphee, Peter Manson, D.S. Marriott, Sam Meekings, Sinéad Morrissey, Daljit Nagra, Caitríona O’Reilly, Alice Oswald, Katherine Pierpoint, Clare Pollard, Jacob Polley, Diana Pooley, Richard Price, Sally Read, Deryn Rees-Jones, Neil Rollinson, Jacob Sam-la Rose, Antony Rowland, James Sheard, Zoë Skoulding, Catherine Smith, Jean Sprackland, John Stammers, Greta Stoddart, Sandra Tappenden, Tim Turnbull, Julian Turner, Mark Waldron, Ahren Warner, Tim Wells, Matthew Welton, David Wheatley, Sam Willetts, Samantha Wynne-Rhydderch and Tamar Yoseloff.
  
Are there any anthologies and collections you’re particularly looking forward to getting your hands on this year?
  
I’d love to hear what’s on your list.
  
  
Identity Parade: New British & Irish Poets,
edited by Roddy Lumsden (Bloodaxe Books)

  
Pharmacopoeia & Early Selected Works
,
Elisabeth Bletsoe (Shearsman Books)
 

  

The Ark Builders, Mary O’Donnell
(Arc Publications)

 
Inroads
, Carolyn Jess-Cooke
(Seren Books)
 

  

Grace of the Gamblers, Naomi Foyle
(Waterloo Press)


  

The Finders of London, Anna Robinson
(Enitharmon Press)

 
The Everyday Wife
, Philippa Yaa de Villiers
(Modjaji Books)
 
 

 
The Breakfast Machine
, Helen Ivory
(Bloodaxe Books)

 
Rootling
, Katie Donovan
(Bloodaxe Books)
 
 

 
What the Water Gave Me – Poems after Frida Kahlo,
Pascale Petit (Seren Books)

 
Ten: New Poets from Spread the Word
,
edited by Bernardine Evaristo and Daljit Nagra
(Bloodaxe Books) 

 

 
Sandgrain and Hourglass
, Penelope Shuttle
(Bloodaxe Books)
 

Kona Macphee’s Perfect Blue

     
Born in London in 1969, Kona Macphee grew up in Australia. She flirted with a range of occupations including composer, violinist, waitress and motorcycle mechanic. She took up robotics and computer science, which brought her to Cambridge as a graduate student in 1995.
     
She now lives in beautiful Perthshire, where she works as a freelance writer and moonlights as the co-director of a software and consultancy company. She has been writing poems since 1997, and received an Eric Gregory Award in 1998. Her first collection, Tails, was published by Bloodaxe in 2004. Her second book of poems, Perfect Blue (Bloodaxe, 2010) is now available. Visit Perfect Blue’s Bloodaxe page, Perfect Blue’s dedicated website, Kona’s professional website and her personal website (which includes her Poem of the Week).
     
     
Kona on writing:
   
“For me, writing is about communication: conveying the emotional state of the writer by recreating it in the mind of the reader. I value the way that good writing can sneak in under the most entrenched defences and unlock an emotional response.
   
I write poems because I love words – playing with them, building complex interconnected structures out of them, and most especially making music with them. The aural qualities of a poem are always important to me, and I’m only properly happy using a word if both its meaning and its sound are right.
   
I often use rhyme and strict forms; the artificial constraints they impose can actually free up the creative process and let the truth out. They’re also good for provoking that delicious sense that you’re not making something new so much as uncovering something that has always existed, word by tantalizing word.”
    
    
*
    
    
from The Book of Diseases sequence
     

Note
“It is alleged that the gangster Al Capone contracted syphilis in his early life, and that mental confusion in his last years was due to the tertiary phase of the disease.”
    
    
Syphilis
Kona Macphee

    
Al Capone in three manifestations
   
Primary: New York
   
What was the first site of the infection?
Was it his beefy face, the slashed left side
he turns away in photos? Something else is marred
by scars he paints in not-quite-outright lies
   
as war wounds, but not anything
the Five Points Gang would recognise; besides,
what prickly truth could vaccinate against
the dark concealed beneath the underground?
   
   
Secondary: Cicero
   
Within the gilded fortress of the Lexington Hotel,
no skin will speckle with the backspat residues
of gunfire, rented muscle will not flex,
blood will not spill, unless he orders it.
   
Outside, there’s jazz and moonshine flaring up
in speakeasies: contagious rhythm, bouts
of drunkenness and whoring. There are bars
that no-one sees, but everybody knows.
  
  
Tertiary: Alcatraz
  
In Cicero, a page of winter snow might blot
the ledger of the streets, collude in brief
with whitewash and denial, filling in
the bullet-pock stigmata, sheeting-over sin;
  
but here in Frisco Bay there’s just a fog
that rolls in from the sea and hangs
a muggy drape of bafflement: at last
he’s fingered by the one that got away.
  
  
Read Kona’s online commentaries for The Book of Diseases and ‘Syphilis’.
  
  
*
  
  
View from a window
Kona Macphee

  
the birds pass –
the robin and the finch, the sparrow and the crow
they come, they go
  
the hours pass –
in carnal cells their winkling fingers soon unlock
they tick, they tock
  
the hurts pass –
as do the joys; in joint or alternating reign
they wax, they wane
  
the clues pass –
these smatterings, these prickled inklings from the deep
they wake, they sleep
  
the days pass –
and though I scrape their marrow or refuse them all
they rise, they fall
  
the birds pass –
wild shadows, gifted that they live but do not know
they come, they go
  
  
Read Kona’s online commentary on ‘View from a window’.
  
Read more poems from Perfect Blue. The companion website also provides author commentaries on each poem, intended to provide a friendly accompaniment to the book (particularly for readers who are new to poetry).
      

 

Kona Macphee

    
“Kona Macphee’s poetry has a genuine lyricism and mystery, together with a bold experimental diction”
  
– John Greening, Poetry Review
  
  
“Kona Macphee’s finest work presents a perspective whose detachment is rooted in genuine care for what it sees, as though the refusal to centre the poems in personal subjectivity will provide the most intimate connection to the world. Add to this meticulous attention a lyricism based on compressed syntax and skilful consonance … an impressive range”
  
– Carrie Etter, Poetry Review
  
  
“Poems of elegant gravitas, terse yet lyrical”
  
Independent on Sunday
  
  
*
  
  
  
     
Kona is selling copies of her first collection, Tails (Bloodaxe, 2004), to raise proceeds for UNICEF.  Please help by ordering a signed copy here.

Some Favourite Poetry Collections of 2009: Part One

 
  
I hope you will enjoy these recommendations and consider buying a few collections, pamphlets and anthologies published this year by a range of presses. A huge thank you to the poets who gave me their choices for the year.
  
What’s your favourite volume of 2009? Feel free to include your recommendations in the comments section.
 
 
Moniza Alvi
 
Natural Mechanical by J O Morgan (CB Editions)
Cold Spring in Winter by Valérie Rouzeau, translated by
Susan Wicks (Arc Publications)
Continental Shelf by Fred D’Aguiar (Carcanet Press)
  
 
Ian Duhig
 
Rain by Don Paterson (Faber & Faber)
Grain by John Glenday (Picador)
Voice Recognition: 21 Poets for the 21st Century, edited by
Clare Pollard & James Byrne (Bloodaxe Books)
  
 
Sheenagh Pugh
  
How to Fall by Karen Annesen (Salt Modern Poets)
The Men from Praga by Anne Berkeley (Salt Modern Poets)
A Village Life by Louise Glück (Farrar, Straus & Giroux)
  
 
Dorianne Laux
  
End of the West by Michael Dickman (Copper Canyon Press)
Cradle Song by Stacey Lynn Brown (C&R Press)
Snowbound House by Shane Seely (Anhinga Press)
  
 
Alison Brackenbury
 
Rain by Don Paterson (Faber & Faber)
Nothing Like Love by Jenny Joseph (Enitharmon Press)
Samuel Menashe: New and Selected Poems (Bloodaxe Books)
 
 
Clare Pollard
  
Caligula on Ice and Other Poems by Tim Turnbull (Donut Press)
Third Wish Wasted by Roddy Lumsden (Bloodaxe Books)
Farewell My Lovely by Polly Clark (Bloodaxe Books)
  
 
Tamar Yoseloff
  
The Men from Praga by Anne Berkeley (Salt Modern Poets)
How to Fall by Karen Annesen (Salt Modern Poets)
Beneath the Rime by Siriol Troup (Shearsman Books)
The Clockwork Gift by Claire Crowther (Shearsman Books)
  
 
Annie Freud
  
Rain by Don Paterson (Faber & Faber)
Furniture by Lorraine Mariner (Picador)
Faber New Poets: Heather Phillipson (Faber & Faber)
  
 
John Wilkinson
  
Stress Position by Keston Sutherland (Barque Press)
Weak Link by Rob Halpern (Slack Buddha Press)
Clampdown by Jennifer Moxley (Flood Editions)
  
 
Marilyn Kallet
 
Practical Water by Brenda Hillman (Wesleyan Poetry)
Warhorses by Yusef Komunyakaa (Farrar, Straus & Giroux,
paperback)
Sassing by Karen Head (WordTech Communications)

Julia Copus on writing poems

  
“Writing poems is a bit like panning for gold. You have to be prepared to sit for a long while in the cold murk of the river-bed and grow heavy with alluvial dust for the sake of the gold it contains.”
  
– Julia Copus, New Blood (Bloodaxe Books, 1999)

Vona Groarke on writing

 
“When I write, it’s like running my hand over a length of cloth, picking out patterns, testing the give, rubbing the fabric between thumb and forefinger to feel out the texture and the flaws.”
 
– Vona Groarke, Modern Women Poets (Bloodaxe, 2005)