Book Review

POETRY MONTH: Broken Sleep Anthology 2019

broken sleep's second annual anthology

POETRY MONTH is nearing its end, and so I return to a very similar text to one I looked at earlier in the month.

That’s right: I am now considering Broken Sleep Anthology 2019.

As with the publisher’s 2018 Anthology, this is edited by Aaron Kent and Charlie Baylis, and contains five(ish) pieces of writing from all of their publications released that year.

This was the year before Broken Sleep began publishing prose works, and I have to say that comparing this to Anthology 2018 and the two anthologies (2020 & 2021) [which my work is featured in and I] have flicked through though not “read” (i.e. studiously from cover to cover), this one is less varied in terms of style and tone than the other three.

I’m not saying that the writing and visual work included here is of a less interesting or less exciting quality than I’ve seen in those three other Broken Sleep anthologies, but the poetry seems to generally be of a somewhat more rarified level here: this is more seriously poetical, in terms of intellectuality: the writing here is less simple across the board then than the poetry which (on a personal level) I both write and read by preference.

Although I closed the book feeling like I had enjoyed it less than the 2018 anthology, when I looked back and noticed how frequently I had highlighted phrases or pieces I’d particularly enjoyed, it turned out I’d taken a lot more pleasure from the volume than I’d realised.

So, while I feel on an emotional level that “serious poetry” is something I’m averse to, it is perhaps something I actually do enjoy on a poem by poem basis.

Reading this after the very affecting yet very smug 81 Austerities by Sam Riviere also likely made me feel disinterested in “serious poetry” (that book has a casual yet academic tone throughout – it’s poetry that feels like it’s written by the kind of person posh people used to write “comedy” novels about 50-80 years ago.)

In the 2018 anthology there was one particular poet whose work I thought was genuinely incredible and exactly the kind of poetry that I love (Alice Kinsella), and though I was disappointed to not have such an immediate and potent response to any of the writing in this book, there were certainly enough pieces and writers here that I enjoyed enough to definitely pick up as and when I see them organically in a bookstore.

What I’m saying is that there was nothing that made me reach for the credit card and online order (which is good as I can’t really afford do that because I don’t have a job lol), but there was plenty here that I would happily reach for when I encounter it in an irl offline location.

My highlights include:

  • ‘SOFT’ by Annabel Banks, a prose poem about elective cosmetic surgery;
  • ‘Dementia as Video Game Glitch’ and ‘Texting a Fictional Shipping Forecast to my Housebound Mother’ are beautiful poems by Matthew Haigh about ageing, bodily decay and emotional distancing;
  • Ollie Tong writes of failure to take the self seriously in ‘2. BREAK IT DOWN’: “During therapy at first / I would only sit in”;
  • SJ Fowler’s poems inspired by films are excellent – my favourite was ‘I Stand Alone’, looking at a 1999 Gaspar Noé feature;
  • Sarah Little has a gorgeous poem describing a small commercial district, ‘Dawn at the Deli’, imagining the connections between various small businesses, and another excellent piece called ‘Come Home With Me’ about inviting a lover into a domestic space that has become far too personal;
  • several excellent pieces from Jasmine Gray, including ‘Vertigo’, about cultural tendencies to forgive the violences of lauded men; ‘Sixteen’, about coercion and expectations and sexual disappointment, which ends with “i wish i had been taught a way to keep tights on / and still feel loved”, a feeling I can relate to; & ‘10.32am’, which is about travel and tedium and includes: “I am wasting life / away on public / transport”;
  • bleak humour from Benedict Hawkins with: “Uber driver: good morning / Me: / / WHAT DAY IS IT” (italics and caps in poem);
  • beautiful description of place from Clarissa Aykroyd in ‘Berlin’;
  • Lucia Dove’s ‘Lenin’s Denim’ is an exhilarating Howl-esque piece about beaches and Soviet leaders, while ‘That park bench’ is a florid, exuberant piece about an unnamed act unleashed upon an unspecified park bench;
  • phenomenal stuff from Eva Griffin to close the anthology including ‘July 7th’ about suicide ideation, Catholicism and the Galapagos; and ‘I wrote this for someone who wouldn’t want it anymore’, which explores desire, regret, inspiration and romance, “kissing is / Practice for poetry”

Order BROKEN SLEEP ANTHOLOGY 2019 direct from the publisher!

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