‘When things of the spirit come first’ is a phrase from Simone de Beauvoir (the title of her first book), which suits my poetry choices for spring.
Tired of intellectual rageand political posturing expressed in opaque diction (as in so much new work), I turn with relief to writers unafraid to touch the soul.
Rosie Jackson, an established poet who has won prizes yet deserves to be much, much better known, is my first choice.
LOVE LEANS OVER THE TABLE (Two Rivers, £10.99) contains the luminous poem, ‘The Boisterous Sobbings of Margery Kempe’, recently commended in the National Poetry Competition. It offers a thought so profound it catches at the heart: ‘God is not a noun / but a verb. . . ‘
This is one of a series of fine poems invoking intense loss, family love, angels, nature, faith, eternity and light.
Jackson’s poem about lockdown challenges us to reflect on that strange time as ‘a kind of pilgrimage’ which required us to ‘go inwards/go deeper’.
LOVE LEANS OVER THE TABLE ( Two Rivers, £10.99 ) contains the luminous poem, ‘The Boisterous Sobbings of Margery Kempe’
She is a rare poet of transcendence who expresses the inexplicable with grace.
With THE HOME CHILD (Chatto, £14.99) Liz Berry achieves a fusion of poetry and fiction as gripping as any thriller.
Inspired by the true story of her great aunt — an orphan sent in 1908 from the Midlands to lifelong ‘exile’ in Novia Scotia — this compelling novel in verse is a moving portrait of a girl who will never see her family again.
Its cumulative power is extraordinary as Eliza suffers, grows older, is exploited yet emotionally needed, falls in love with another orphan, Daniel, and then is finally separated from him.
Berry writes without blame or bitterness, expressing grief rather than rage over the gross errors of a long-ago time we cannot change.
Jeremy Robson also reflects on the past, from his vantage point as an octogenarian: ‘I’ve seen too many of those close to me/depart this earth with all the black/ceremony death imposes. . . ‘
CHAGALL’S MOON (Smokestack, £7.99) begins with the blessing of married familiarity and ends with a witty shout of rebellion against dark fate.
Bel Mooney shares her selection of poetry must-reads
Allie Esiri adds to her tally of essential anthologies with A NURSERY RHYME FOR EVERY NIGHT OF THE YEAR ( Macmillan £20 )
In between are quietly conversational poems about friendship, Jewish tradition, ageing, jazz, love.
Robson’s work gets better and better; the undercurrent of sadness is offset by moments of happiness as colourful as a painting by Chagall.
Finally, an anthology to spark joy.
Allie Esiri adds to her tally of essential anthologies with A NURSERY RHYME FOR EVERY NIGHT OF THE YEAR (Macmillan £20).
Do children still learn verses?
This lovely collection of 365 rhymes, charms and jokes is a gift to parents; a happy reminder of a more innocent age.
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