Sunday, March 01, 2009

Culture Sunday

I recently received three books of poetry from various publishers and thought it would be fun to do a review on them in one post.

In no shape or form am I a good enough writer to write poetry - in fact, my English tutors at school used to despair. My brain shuts down. I used to bribe someone to write my poetry in class - I paid said person by writing his essays. Raymond and I got along really well.

Poetry has this stigma that it is only for girls or for extremely sensitive young men who attend the Sorbonne in Paris. This of course is rubbish. Everyone succumbs to the beauty and fun of a good poem when they read Shakespeare, Keats, Shelley and a new favourite of mine, Benjamin Zephaniah. I love poetry and verse - eventhough I can't write any to save my little life - but I enjoy reading it. Oh, I don't analyse it as a whole , or its stanzas - sometimes, poetry is just good condensed storytelling, letting you walk away to reflect on its deeper meaning.

First up in my review is Scottish Poems published by Everyman's Library Pocket Poets as edited by Gerard Carruthers. It was published to coincide with Burn's Night and it reflects the diverse styles of Scottish poets across a good couple of years. Modern poetry by Liz Lockhead and Murial Spark rubs shoulders with works by Walter Scott and Robert Louis Stephenson.

The book is small and can easily fit into a pocket or bag. It's shape is made to pick up and read. My copy is mangled around about page 66 which is where the poem: The Queen of Sheba starts. I love this poem by Kathleen Jamie - it's beautifully descriptive whilst being questioning and challenging at the same time. The book, Scottish Poems, is unusually arranged by theme: from matters of the heart, to philosohical, spiritual mattters and then also poetry of place.

A lovely, well put together little book of poems ranging from olden days to modern. Well worth getting hold of to dip into.

Next is The Drowned Book by Sean O'Brien published by Picador Poetry. When I received the book, I googled the poet and found that he had won the TS Elliot prize in 2007 and he is currently living in Newcastle where he teaches creative writing at Newcastle University. Mr. O'Brien had published a verse translation of Dante's Inferno and The Drowned Book strongly reflects the darkness and themes from Inferno. It is - from a reader's perspective (who happens to be an aspiring writer) a study in control and description and creating atmosphere. Not a book I would recommend picking up for light reading - there is a lot going on and although it is strong and wonderful, the imagery is dark and upsetting.

You have been warned - A collection of cautionary verse, chosen by Roger McGough and publsihed by Oxford Children's is my next book.

I am struggling to not laugh - this book is aimed at younger readers and is fantastically illustrated by Chris Mould. The verses are so amusing, for instance:

Rules for Cooking Toast by Anonymous

Be accurate when cooking toast
Never try to guess
Cook it till it smokes and then
Twenty seconds less


Bump by Spike Milligan

Things that go "bump!" in the night,
Should not really give one a fright.
It's the hole in each ear
That lets in the fear,
That, and the absence of light!

This is such a cute and funny little book - it makes me laugh out loud every time I haul it out to find another random and sometimes, truly macabre, piece of verse. Some are much longer pieces of work from various authors and the illustrations are so apt and amsusing. I would highly recommend this, especially for boys, who like a bit of ick with their literature. Who ever said poetry and verse can't be fun?

I hope you've had fun on Cultural Sunday. Next Sunday will be dedicated to some picture books for younger readers. I am going to try and get some extra copies for a competition, so make sure to come back and check it out.

No comments: