Nothing and everything poetry book
Poetry School Books of the Year • Poetry SchoolFunny, painful, complex, adventurous, elegiac, innovative, insightful and enduring, the books we have chosen to celebrate here represent just a small selection of the marvellous work we have read and loved over the past twelve months. Below, in alphabetical order, you will find a few of our favourites, in short reviews written by our staff, and a longlist of a hundred. I have a personal connection to this book. The author was thought to be dyslexic with severe learning disabilities until his deafness was discovered at the age of six. A timely and well-presented selection for children that grown-ups, too, would do well to dip into.
A Poem: From Nothing to Everything
Nothing can ever happen twice. In consequence, the sorry fact is that we arrive here improvised and leave without the chance to practice. Even if there is no one dumber, if you're the planet's biggest dunce, you can't repeat the class in summer: this course is only offered once. No day copies yesterday, no two nights will teach what bliss is in precisely the same way, with precisely the same kisses. One day, perhaps some idle tongue mentions your name by accident: I feel as if a rose were flung into the room, all hue and scent. The next day, though you're here with me, I can't help looking at the clock: A rose? A rose?
A really successful poetry anthology needs two essential ingredients: pace and rhythm. The editor has to think hard about which poems are put together and how they relate to each other. Much of the challenge is working on the order and identifying certain poems that act as breathers to achieve the right tempo. Since childhood, in my loneliest or most tumultuous hours, I have found solace in identifying the perfect poem for the moment. Although I still hunt in secondhand bookshops, the Pharmacy, which started as a live event at festivals, has led readers to share their experiences and recommendations with me. It has also informed my choices here.
For a long time it seemed that Irish poetry could be about anything from pisspots to pig-slaughtering but it could not be about politics. There were others before them, of course, Padraig Fiacc ploughed a lonely furrow, for example, and further back in time political activism was commonplace among Irish writers. But the lark-rise of Seamus Heaney began the reign of polite irony. Then the spoken word scene came along. Poetry readings took place in pubs and festival tents where before they happened in libraries and lecture halls. And with this came a directness and flexibility that my generation had failed to appropriate, though it was available to us in the model of the Beats. Poets of my generation, including myself, are all fatally marked by the polite irony brand.
Here we present an edited excerpt from their conversation. What struck me most are its sonic qualities, and also the language. Initially I thought that you had embarked on a different path from what you were doing in your previous volumes. It heaves. So I want to ask: To what extent was there any kind of deliberateness or consciousness in it? And I ask this as someone who writes as well, and as someone who has grown tired of their own voice and with their own tricks, in a way.