It’s often been said that in order to write, you first have to read – to consume the work of others, discover the type of writing you enjoy and develop your own distinctive style. For this reason, I collect poetry books; from petite pamphlets to heavy hardbacks, by poets past and present, I love them all and return to them again and again.
Here are five of my favourite poetry books – perhaps you’d like to share some of your own in the comments.
Plum by Hollie McNish (2017)
This is my most recent purchase, which I ordered after writing a blog post about poetry in advertising that featured Hollie’s poem Little Things (in an advert for Nationwide).
I love how Hollie intersperses her recent work with writing from her younger years, which reminds me of what I’m trying to do with this blog; she told The Guardian that she wanted to celebrate her younger self by sharing her earlier work, “even if some of the poems are cringe-worthy“, and I can certainly relate to that!
Favourite poem: Watching Miserable-Looking Couples In The Supermarket – it’s simple but so evocative.
The Tune of Flutes by Diana James (1945)
I first read one of Diana James’ poems, titled You Turn All Things In Me, in a musty old anthology bought from a car boot sale on a rainy Sunday morning. I tore it out of the water-damaged book, scanned it in and framed it to hang on my wall.
James published her own poetry book, The Tune of Flutes, in 1945 – which, according to the inside cover (right), she wrote between the ages of 14 and 17. When I compare her poetry to my own at that age, I’m in awe of her writing!
I’d love to know if she published any further work but it’s been surprisingly difficult to find anything on the internet; if anyone can help, please let me know!
Favourite poem: You Turn All Things In Me (see scan below) – it reminds me of how I feel when I come home to my husband after a bad day.
You Took The Last Bus Home by Brian Bilston (2017)
Brian Bilston has been nicknamed “the unofficial Poet Laureate of Twitter” because he accidentally became a poet through the social network; in 2014, he tweeted a 140-character poem which garnered so many likes that it propelled him to success (and later became the title of his book).
I love how Bilston experiments with using different formats for his poems, for example by writing in flow charts, spreadsheets, and even (as shown in the photo) a Venn diagram; I wonder how he comes up with his ideas!
Favourite poem: At the Intersection (as shown in the image) – it’s such a clever concept and beautifully executed.
A Book of Bosh by Edward Lear (1975)
My nanna gave this to me in 1991 with the inscription: “For Carolyn, a little ‘stuff and nonsense’ to help the day along, love from Nanna“.
Back then, I loved the nonsense verse and whimsical illustrations – such as this one (right) of Mr Lear himself. Today, I have another reason to love this book – because it reminds me of my nanna. I smile when I see her handwriting on the contents page and I remember how she encouraged my love of poetry.
Favourite poem: The Owl and the Pussycat – a much-loved classic (and popular wedding reading!).
Penguin Modern Poets (2016–)
This is technically a series of books, so I’m cheating a little by including it, but I think these books – described by the publisher as “succinct guides to the richness and diversity of contemporary poetry, [featuring] representative selections from the work of three poets now writing” – are a great way to discover new poets and read different styles of poetry.
I also like to see their colourful spines and interesting titles (right) on the bookshelf, and I’m looking forward to adding book 7 (which came out on 30th August) to my collection.
Favourite poem: A Halo Over The Hospital by Maggie Nelson in book number six – I’m not usually a fan of long poems but this one is worth taking the time to read.
What are your favourite poetry books? I’d love to hear your recommendations.