Saturday, July 14, 2007

Books Just Arrived

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!

:wry grin:

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 ...

4 comments:

Ms Baroque said...

Interesting choice of books. I love Ian Duhig; you should also try to get hold of his new collection, The Speed of Dark (which I reviewed for Offshoots at www.thepoem.co.uk). Minsk didn't do so much for me.

I thought some of Paterson's Rilke versions were very strong & muscular - but, & I've blogged on this, are they too muscular to be Rilke? I don't know the original well enough to be comfortable with versions... & something in me rebels against the swotting I'd have to do, with two books open on a table. Lovely cover though.

I've loved several new books this year, including the strange, slightly unsavoury, technically brilliant and ineffably beautiful Selected Poems of Frederick Seidel. He is American, fantastically rich and getting on a bit now; hasn't given a reading in 40 years, but on his website there are recordings and he has a very beautiful voice.

Books on my list to buy once I get over the last spate are: Mercian Hymns (around £15 for even the humblest second-hand copy) and Tobias Hill's Nocturne in Chrome and Sunset Yellow.

I think the thing with reading loads of current poetry is that you see it all so close up, it's like seeing all the sixty eyes of the fly. It's so multifarious you sort of have to make a decision which eyes to look at.

Jane Holland said...

I used the word 'delicate' to describe Paterson's versions of Rilke because they are, in comparison with his 'own' poetry, if you see what I mean. His original thoughts. But whether they are in comparison to Rilke's originals, I couldn't say, not being acquainted with them except in passing. One can't read everything!

But I suppose this is one excellent reason for writing translations and versions of poets you admire; to encourage people to read the originals and discover that poet for themselves.

I own Tobias Hill's Nocturne - an uncorrected proof copy, no less! - and it is a good and solid collection. However, it doesn't ring any bells. Tobias Hill lives in a different mental universe to me, so although I can see that his poetry is good, it leaves me untouched.

I actually preferred some of his earlier work. It's down to my visceral personality, no doubt. There's something about raw early poetry that really grabs me and inspires me to write. Nocturne is too polished and urbane to excite me in the same way. A little too Roman, perhaps ...

Lol. Jx

Ms Baroque said...

LOL, weren't the Romans pretty visceral? Occurs to me I forgot to say how badly I want books by Rosemary Tonks and Harry Fainlight, both also impossible to get for under a large sum. If anyone rich and generous is reading this.

And Jane, have you read Dorothy Molloy (Faber)? Have we had this conversation?

tb said...

The Changes on TV terrified and enthralled me as a child: the train in the credits (sharing a memory slot with the nuclear train in Edge of Darkness) the cave, the pylons, the spooky clashing music.