Sunday, November 29, 2015

Book Review – Lifesaving Poems edited by Anthony Wilson

lifesaving-poems

In some ways this book is a very personal collection of poetry, an anthology for one.  Lifesaving Poems was a notebook that then turned into a popular blog.

Anthony Wilson’s inspiration came from a Seamus Heaney quote questioning how many poems a person can recall responding to over a lifetime.

Answering that question, as this book does for Wilson, is going to make for a very select and subjective collection of poems. What the success of the blog showed though was that this didn’t seem to matter.

Lifesaving Poems presents each of the selected poems that Wilson recalls having an impact on him followed by a page or more of commentary.  What I liked about the commentary was that it wasn’t academic analysis.  Sure Wilson may have directed the reader to technical proficiency but overall I found the commentary clear, concise, conversational and engaging.

Indeed, while some of the poems did not inspire a response in my own reading, a thoroughly enjoyed all the commentary.  Sometimes that commentary caused me to review what I’d read and develop a new understanding.

A side effect of reading Lifesaving Poems was of course being exposed to some UK poets who I hadn’t heard of.  I did experience some frustration upon discovering (and getting excited about) new UK poets only to find that their works were only out in short print runs or from small publishers whose operational costs were high and priced the works out of the market for me.

But Lifesaving Poems might just be my favourite poetry book of the year.  It’s approach to discussing poetry doing much more for me in terms of developing understanding and taste than the standard approach to reviewing and critiquing poetry.

If you’d like to sample some of the commentary go here.  The commentary text is similar if not the same to that in the book, though the formatting is different.

A worthwhile spend for lovers of poetry whether poets or readers. And as a bonus its readily available in Australia through Booktopia.

 

Previously published on Adventures of a Bookonaut.

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Permission to write poetry by Jo Bell

Below is a 24 minute video about giving yourself permission to write poetry by Poet Jo Bell. It has wider applicability for all writers of course.

 

Sunday, November 1, 2015

Book Review–First Light : a selection of poems by Philip Hodgins

first-light

It’s perhaps a sign of how divorced from the larger Australian culture poetry is, that I missed Philip Hodgins’ rise and impact on the scene. 

The accolades don’t seem to gel with my experience: - “one of the major poets of his generation”, “a leading poet in any terms”. 

I knew nothing of him until two years ago.  And in my work as a relief teacher I have not once come across him being studied in classrooms (a crying shame considering the content and variety of his form).

This is not a criticism of the poet nor of the scene.  It is, I think the times we live in and they way that poetry survives as an art form in this country.

While much of Hodgins works can be viewed for free at the Australian Poety Library, First Light gives the reader the chance to hold a curated collection in their hand.  Something that’s suprisingly hard to do (there’s only one copy of one collection in the entire South Australian Library system)

I had searched the country for second hand copies of his Selected Poems to no avail.  That First Light is produced by an American publisher is also curious for a poet that is held with such high regard.

I am, however, an unabashed fan and although I think we may have had some differences of opinion on some things, he is my favourite Australian male poet.  I have read a library copy of New Selected Poems and in comparison First Light does as good a job of showcasing Hodgins’ best work: the skill with which he uses form and free verse, his updating of the realities of farming life in the poetry cannon and his poems on the subject of his own death.

I’ll leave you with links to some select poems contained within this collection:

Shooting the Dogs

Bucolica

I think any serious Australian poet should know of Philip Hodgins, particularly any one writing of a rural experience. First Light is a good compact collection that I think would appeal to lovers of more traditional form, rhythm and rhyme as well as free verse. 

First Light is available at all good bookstores and online via Booktopia.

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