(ANTHOLOGY 2018 was edited by Aaron Kent and Charlie Baylis.)
What is poetry?
I suppose, already here on the third day of POETRY MONTH, that’s probably a question I should have asked before. In fact, that’s probably something I should have asked and answered years ago, given that I am a poet of some (not much) renown.
What do I mean when I – scott manley hadley – say “poetry”?
What I mean when I say “poetry” is probably something similar to the now infamous Anne Carson fire-running quotation, which I think kind of sums it up, or at least sums up a lot of the poets and poems I’ve read and enjoyed during my oh-too-long time on this earth.
This anthology from 2018 is from the publishers of my most recent two books (so, yes, there is a bit of bias here) and it contains work from 13 texts they published in the year of the anthology’s title. Of these 13 excerpts, most are a set of five poems, though one selection is a set of photographs, and one is five draught versions of a single poem: this is the contribution from one of the editors of this volume, Aaron Kent, which is a fun – and almost subversive – way to anthologise ones own work. What do I mean by that? I mean that in a book containing 11 sets of five poems and one set of five photographs, a series of five annotated versions of one poem is a genuinely enjoyable aside… it is a nice difference in content-
What I’m trying to say is that it doesn’t feel self-indulgent. Aaron, I’m sure you’re reading this (you are the first still-living poet mentioned this POETRY MONTH, so I hope you are!) I’m saying that I liked it. I genuinely liked it. If I didn’t like it, I’d say so, or I’d say nothing about it at all. TriumphOfTheNow.com is a an honest space. If there’s one thing I am, it is bald. If there are two things I am, it is bald and honest to a fault.
Anyway, so 11 sets of poems in here.
11 sets of poems from texts published by Broken Sleep Books in 2018.
For me, what I love about reading poetry anthologies is the same thing that I hate about reading poetry anthologies: because poetry has such a huge range and variety of styles and examples within it, all but the very worst poetry anthologies – and this is a good poetry anthology – contain within a tonal and stylistic variety.
That means there are going to be things I super enjoy in, as well as things I don’t.
There are some prose poems here very reminiscent of the writing of Alan Burns, (who I’d been blogging about at the time of composing the first draft of this POETRY MONTH post) by Rupert Loydell, there are some – what I would call – obtuse poems in here, which I know lots of people think of as “poetry” and lots of people obviously love, but it’s not my kind of thing and though that doesn’t mean I think it’s bad, I just don’t enjoy poetry that offers opacity. If I can’t see, it’s not for me.
There were poems, though, that I really really really enjoyed in here. I’m just going to name a few, I’m not really gonna do much quoting because that somehow feels more like work than I like this blog to feel.
I super enjoyed the writing of sally burnette in here, in particular a piece called ‘poem for when my father comments on my leg hair or when my mother sends me unsolicited issues of southern lady or where jocelyn at cvs hands me t & needles then calls me ma’am‘. That poem is an emotive and emotional text about trans identities and gender performance, which I really loved.
The selection of pieces by Sarah Law also clicked with me, I thought they were super engaging, brief, evocative and offering implications of a complex narrative around the pieces themselves. One particular moment I enjoyed, a fun pair of lines about homework when going to high school:
It mushroomed over the years,
filling the weekends with fungal pressure
For me, the thing I love about poetry, the reason why I adore it as a literary form, even if I don’t read it every day, is that sometimes – and only, really, in poetry – I encounter writing that I just think is the most potent, the most powerful, the most beautiful and important text I’ve seen in as long as I can remember.
The poetry that I love, I love more than any other type of writing that exists, which is why I am a poet (rather than employed).
I had that (maybe not rare, but definitely not common) experience inside this anthology, that experience of reading a poet who makes me want to lie on the floor and weep and scream with empathetic joy and excitement. And that came from the five pieces included here by Alice Kinsella.
All five of these pieces were, for me, breathtaking and indescribably (yeah, I can’t describe it) beautiful pieces of writing, writing about illness, about bodies, about physicality, about sex, about love, about change, using the body and the weather as metaphor, each for the other… I thought these pieces were incredible.
I’m not saying that the other 12 contributors to this book weren’t great artists, but these poems by Alice Kinsella are exactly the kind of poem that I love to read, and if I can scramble the money together (as I said, I’m unemployed) to purchase, read and comment on some more texts by Alice Kinsella before TriumphOfTheNow.com POETRY MONTH is over, then I definitely will. If I can’t, though, I’ll just buy them at a later date.
This is excellent anthology with lots to enjoy, whatever type of poetry you like to read. Well, not “whatever”, obviously I don’t mean this has every single possible time of poem in here, as it’s only 100 pages, y’know, but there is sufficient variety in here to appeal to many different tastes, but the one that absolutely locked onto my taste were the five pieces by Alice Kinsella.
Which, if you like the kind of poetry that I praise on here, whenever I do write about poetry, then it’s probably the kind of poetry you’re going to love too…
September 9th, 2022… the day after the death of the Queen.