Here’s what’s on my bedside table this month vying with the Sudoku book…
The March issue of Poetry arrived the other day so I’ve only just dipped into it. A wonderful piece towards the end by Kate Farrell introducing an unfinished poem by her ex-husband Kenneth Koch written when he was in Rome in 1978. This resonates with me particularly as it was to Rome that I ran away in 1979 and I’ve strong memories of that time and place. Other stand-outs so far: three wonderful poems by Michelle Y. Burke. Here’s one: Diameter. It’s exciting to get Poetry in the post – always new names and new surprises.
Jackie Wills, Woman’s Head as Jug (Arc, 2013). Jackie is someone I’ve been aware of for a long time as she’s Brighton-based and well-known in these parts as a writer and tutor, and although I’ve only heard her read twice it was memorable. I loved the short poems I’d heard from the middle section of Woman’s Head as Jug (great title!) in a sequence called ‘Sweats’, partly with the fear of ‘oh god is this what’s to come’ but also for their precision and black humour. The book begins with a series of poems giving voice to an eclectic range of female workers, from ‘A Lone Leaping Woman’ (which we’re told is a female itinerant worker in Mediaeval England) to ‘Dorset Buttonmaker’ and possibly the poet herself in ‘Saturday Girl’.
Pippa Little, Overwintering (Carcanet 2012). I came across Pippa’s name on a competition shortlist recently and something made me look her up. On Susan Rich’s blog I found two poems from Overwintering – read them here – which made me want to buy the collection and I’m not sorry I did. Lots to get stuck into and enjoy here.
Byron, Selected Verse & Prose Works including Letters and Extracts from Lord Byron’s Journals and Diaries (ed. Quennell, Collins 1959). I’ve never read any Byron. Although I’m a reasonable bluffer should I need to pretend I have. This book came to me via my husband’s step-daughter who was clearing her grandparents’ house and put all the poetry books into a box with my name on. There was no pressure on me to have them all, thankfully, but I gratefully took this one, as well as a Rupert Brooke Collected and a Penguin Poets first edition of Burns. I’ve actually gone straight to Byron’s journal and ‘detached thoughts’, basically the 19th century equivalent of a blog. I’m excited at the idea of learning more about his life, work and personality through these writings. This book is a little odd in that it’s been bound upside-down, which means I always try opening it the wrong way. Hmmm.
Katherine Mansfield, Selected Stories (OUP 2008). I’ve always wanted to read some Katherine Mansfield. Perhaps partly because of her being published by the Hogarth Press and her connection to the Bloomsbury group (Charleston House is very near Lewes and I’m a fan of its annual literary festival.) In my book group a few years ago we discussed reading her but it never happened, so now I’m reading it in my book group of one.
Agnieszka Studzinska, What Things Are (Eyewear, 2104). I haven’t started this yet but I’m looking forward to it. I found myself sitting next to Agnieszka (who kindly told me she goes by the name ‘Nisha’ for short) at a recent Coffee House Poetry workshop. She’s one of those beautiful, modest AND talented poets who are also down-to-earth and friendly – GRRR! – for heaven’s sake, Nisha, give the rest of us mortals a break!! The collection comes with warm blurbs from Michael Symmons Roberts, Deryn Rees-Jones and Hannah Lowe. One to watch, if you’re not already watching her.