Poetry Shelf, Poet’s Choice: Bill Manhire selects some favourite reads of 2015


The late R.F. Langley is still one of the secrets of recent poetry in English, though Carcanet’s new Complete Poems (edited by Jeremy Noel-Tod) will be doing something to bring him out of the shadows.  He looks a bit remote and narrow on the page – but in fact the poems are full of hidden rhymes: listen to him hard, sound him on the tongue, and you realise he’s one of the most musical poets going.  And if poems are, as someone said, acts of attention, then he’s also one of the most attentive you’re ever likely to come across.

I like how Commune Editions, the publisher of Juliana Spahr’s That Winter the Wolf Came,  describe themselves: ‘purveyor of poetry & other antagonisms’.  There are plenty of antagonisms in this new book, which builds its effects into something bigger than the simple arithmetic of its individual poems. A poem called ‘Turnt’, online at the Poetry Foundation, gives a reasonable sense of how Spahr goes about things.

Though I’m late to the party, I’ve been reading Dan O’Brien’s 2013 collection, War Reporter (CB editions, 2013), which voices itself through the persona of the Pulitzer Prize-winning reporter Paul Watson – so that you’re both in the action and out of it at the same time.  As with Wilfred Owen et al, it will never be an easy time to read work like this – but just at the moment it feels especially challenging.

Finally, Zaffar Kunial is a poet I like a lot, though he hasn’t published a full collection yet.  He has the wonderful/weird distinction of once having worked as a writer for Hallmark Cards. Here’s a link to why – or part of why – I like his work. The page also includes a link to his poem ‘The Word’. It’s small and tidy, but is a sort of Tardis poem: bigger on the inside than the outside.

Bill Manhire

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