Well, this is a first for my blog - a poetry anthology! When I was younger I lived and breathed poetry. Read it, wrote it, quoted it. I even did my dissertation on an American poet. I don’t know what went wrong!! It’s not that I ever fell out of love with poetry. i just maybe stopped being obsessed with it! Is it an age thing? ‘I grow old… I grow old…. I shall wear the bottoms of my trousers rolled.’! Nowadays I just tend to revisit specific, favourite poems from time to time. I have no idea what is happening currently in the world of poetry. Is Carol Ann Duffy still poet laureate? ;-)
So, why now? My curiosity was piqued by learning that the wonderful Quercus Books publicist Ana McLaughlin had published an anthology of poems. Not only an anthology but an anthology of poems by women. Pertinent topically with the #metoo movement and suffrage anniversaries, I’ve read many good things about it on social media. And Ana has passed such exceptional books my way that I felt compelled to - give something back if you like. So I bought myself a copy and I may just have fallen in love with poetry all over again.
However this is a blog first and I’m pondering how to review an anthology. I don’t think it’s about individual poems. I have my favourites, of course, but it seems unhelpful to extol their virtues further because poetry is such a subjective art form and everyone’s favourites will be different. So I’m just gonna go with my own flow and see what comes out!!
There’s a diverse range of poets included and the book’s structure gives them voice though all the stages of girlhood, womanhood, personhood, origins and beyond maybe, examining aspects both historic and contemporary. Something I loved was that there were familiar. classic even, poems nestling amongst some new (to me), modern voices. It’s a veritable poetry jewellery box, ‘twinkling with delight’, full of precious gems, some smooth and polished, others rough and uncut. It may seem paradoxical to describe an anthology as a ‘page turner’ but this one really is.
There are moments of pure exuberance which will bring a smile to your face, make you laugh even, some will send you down memory lane and there are moments of purest emotion that will bring tears to your eyes .
It was the final section that really got me, had me weeping. The poems there so eloquently express that imperceptible change from the invincibility of your younger years to the confrontation of your own mortality as you age. I wasn’t going to mention specific poems but the entry from the late, great Helen Dunmore was especially poignant. And whilst we’re mentioning specific poems one of my favourites and one I return to again and again is Stevie Smith’s ‘Not Waving But Drowning’. Gets me every time.
Included too are some thumbnail biographies of the poets at the end of the book. So you can investigate if you wish but it’s not ‘in your face’ if you don’t. Personally I think you will!! It may only be September but I’ve already decided to gift copies of this book to a couple of people on my Christmas present list.
I’m usually thanking Ana for sending me books, now I’m thanking her for writing this book. It’s made me happy.