Having a little spare cash after putting down the required deposit and whatnot for our new tenancy - starting next week - I decided to treat myself to some new books.
Well, I say new, but only one of them is genuinely new and that's Common Prayer by Poetry Review editor, Fiona Sampson (Carcanet Books, just out).
Some are copies of poetry books I've had out on loan from the library and want to actually own, like Don Paterson's delicately written Orpheus (Faber, 2006) and Vicki Feaver's The Book of Blood (Cape, 2006).
Interestingly, The Book of Blood was one of a number of possible titles for my own second collection, which eventually became Boudicca & Co. Vicki Feaver got there first on this occasion, but since I consider Boudicca & Co. an inspired choice of title, there can be no hard feelings!
Also in this category is Paul Farley's excellent Tramp in Flames.
Yet another book, Peter Dickinson's Changes, is not poetry at all, but science fantasy: a trilogy of short fantasy novels I loved in my teens, now published as one volume by US publisher Dell. Merlin re-awakens and 'changes' Britain back into the Dark Ages, a land where modern machines are considered the work of the devil and those who try to use them are treated as witches. I'm looking forward to re-acquainting myself with the Changes trilogy this summer - as a break from the deadly serious work of poetry!
That only leaves two other books: Lavinia Greenlaw's Minsk (Faber, 2003) and Ian Duhig's The Lammas Hireling (Picador, also 2003). I've read neither of these before, though I have browsed Duhig's book in a branch of Waterstones, intrigued by the superb painting of a 'Hare' by Albrecht Durer on the cover, and put it down mentally on my list of books to be bought when I'd got enough in the bank. Me and hares ... suffice it to say, we go way back.
I haven't put links up for any of these, as I wouldn't have wanted to leave anyone out and there are rather too many for a quick blog entry. But I hope you google at least one or two of them, if you're interested in contemporary poetry, and maybe buy a few yourself. Unless you own them already, of course, in which case do leave a comment below to let me know your favourites or the most disappointing reads among those books mentioned here.
Packing up the house recently, I discovered that I own several hundred books of poetry published over the past few decades. I haven't managed to read them all, of course, though I've sampled most. Some I know intimately, and those are the books of poetry which have gone into my OPEN FIRST boxes during the packing process, the poems that sustain me both as a writer and as a person.
But it's an odd thing. The more contemporary poetry I read, the less I seem to know or really understand about poetry.
In that respect, at least, poetry is like the TARDIS in Doctor Who. It's bigger on the inside ...