Poetry Shelf, Poet’s Choice: Jane Arthur makes her picks



I feel like I was luckier than everyone else this year because I got to read my classmates’ work at the IIML where I was working on my MA folio. I don’t understand how there can be so many good writers around, but there are and I have the proof. At some time in the future, I will choose Nick Bollinger’s ‘Goneville’ as one of my books of the year – it’s a music bio/memoir/cultural history and it just won the Adam Prize for being excellent. Please also check out the latest issue of Turbine online to see how clever my other classmates are.

Tim Upperton’s The Night We Ate the Baby came along right when I needed it this year. It does things and says things poetry “shouldn’t”. It kicks against beauty, niceties, and resolution. A few times, it does this self-referentially, like: poetry is such a dick. Eww, poetry, you’re so gross (see “Fonnet”). It’s a breeze to read and the speaker of the poems is great because he’s such a grumpy bastard. A sucker-punch for anyone who thinks poetry is difficult and pretentious.

Louise Glück’s Vita Nova couldn’t be more different from Upperton’s book, but I loved it too. Each poem feels like a whisper, somehow, though they kept on kicking me in the gut when I wasn’t looking. It’s bloody beautiful. Hold your breath and eat it, I reckon.

I rediscovered the joy of Beauty Sleep by Kate Camp, which is full of zany turns and genuinely funny bits, and the blurting-out of thoughts I’m so fond of in my own life and writing. And the poem “Yuri Gagarin’s bed” has an ending that made me gawp at its honesty and perfection.

Jane Arthur

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