Poetry Book Recommendations

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Seeing as it’s National Poetry Day, I thought I’d share some of my favourite poetry books with you all. I am a self confessed poetry nerd – I love it. I write my own after all! It’s so weird to think that this time last year I had just left my role as Staffordshire and Stoke-on-Trent Young Poet Laureate… It honestly feels like yesterday and the time has just disappeared. I’m very much the kind of person who will pick up an anthology and read a couple of poems out of it and put it down again – I cannot pick one up and read it from cover to cover. I never have been able to, I don’t know…

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I’ll start with my current favourite: And Still I Rise by Maya Angelou. This book is just perfect. I love love love Maya Angelou’s writing style; it’s honest and raw and as much as I love those poems with vivid imagery and are all symbolism, poems that say things as they are – “ugly poetry” as I heard Jen Campbell call it in one video – is my absolute favourite. But don’t think that this is harsh and unpleasant to read, this is quite the opposite. It’s beautiful and I’m going to run out of adjectives by the end of this post if I say any more…

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The next three I want to talk about (they are in no order from now on) are by Carol Ann Duffy. I own The World’s Wife, The Other Country, and The Bees. I haven’t actually read any from the bees yet as I only got it recently from the charity shop but it’s so gorgeous! The poems in The World’s Wife are written from the perspectives of the wives of famous people, and I really enjoyed this concept as some of them were humorous, some were gritty; there was a nice mix. The Other Country (I haven’t read many from this one, but the ones I’ve read I’ve enjoyed) focus on people from other countries, immigrants and other cultures, as far as I could tell. They’re really lovely books to just pick up and read a couple from as they’re not difficult reads, but they’re thought-provoking, and I like time to process them after I’ve read them.

IMG_6571The Divine Comedy by Dante is one of the most famous epic poems to have ever been written. It follows the story of Dante (I believe it’s him anyway – it’s a first person narrator) traversing through, hell, purgatory and then paradise to find salvation – I believe anyway. I’m only on page 46. I’m absolutely loving it though – I fell in love almost immediately – and whilst I was expecting to enjoy it, I didn’t expect to fall as quickly in love with it as I have. Also, this book is my baby. It. Is. Stunning. It contains images that go with the poem and it just helps with my understanding (it’s not difficult to understand, but the pictures just make it very clear) and the pages are gold edged and ugh. This book.

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Anyone who knows me knows just how much I love going to the theatre and Cats is one of my favourite musicals of all time (it’s up there with Les Mis, if it hasn’t beaten it – it’s a tight competition). What makes it better is that it’s actually based of a poetry book by T. S. Eliot – Old Possum’s Book of Practical Cats. I didn’t actually realise that “Old Possum” was a nickname for T. S. Eliot until a while ago. Then it all made sense! I also really love this book which I had for my birthday, Now We Are Six by A. A. Milne. Winnie the Pooh was probably my favourite programme when I was little (and to be honest with you I’d watch it now if it was on TV at some point) and these poems are just so amazing. They’re really humorous, even when I read them now. I found this other book, Of Mutability by Jo Shapcott in a charity shop and picked it up on a whim. That was a good choice. I love that there are so many different styles within this anthology and the poems just had something about them that draws me in and makes me fall in love – but that “something” I can’t explain. I don’t know why, it’s one of those feelings that you can’t put into words it’s so weird (in a good way!).

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Finally these are my favourite four anthologies that contain poems by a variety of different poets. 100 Best Poems For Children is one of my oldest books and if I remember rightly I bought it whilst in Ireland years ago. It contains stunning illustrations and I have just always loved the poems in this book, my favourite being “The Listeners” by Walter De La Mare – I’ve always loved that poem, and probably always will. I also adore England’s Best Loved Poems which is edited by George Courtauld. There are brief explanations of the poets and poems before each one and this is such a nice touch, and the poems are so well selected. One Hundred Favourite Poems, selected by Classic FM listeners has a wide variety of poems and it’s great for flicking through if you don’t want to read poems by one poet. All of these four books are good for that. Finally Best-Loved Poems, edited by Neil Philip is a beautiful book as well. The pages are gold edged and contain small illustrations and it’s gorgeous. The poems are sorted into themes (they are in England’s Best Loved Poems as well) but there is such a range of themes that you can pretty much always find one in here to suit your mood.

These are just a small few of the poetry books that I own and I adore them all. I may do a complete collection blog post / video sometime in the future, but I’m not too sure. If you want to get into poetry, I’d definitely recommend starting with an anthology containing poems from many different poets as you can find the ones you enjoy the most as well as the theme / genre / period.

A year later.

I can honestly say that this has been such a fantastic experience! I have been Staffordshire and Stoke-on-Trent Young Poet Laureate for a year now and now it is time for me to hand over to my successor, whom I have met and I really like so that I am pleased about! I feel I have achieved quite a lot during a year – although it’s gone extremely fast – too fast. I’ve written a poem to advertise the young teen fiction award, which was possible my favourite poem that I have written for the post. I have also written one advertising a competition as part of the Lichfield festival, one for world book day which I slightly changed for world book night, one for part of Stoke’s Chelsea flower show entry, and also a poem to go with the summer reading challenge. For the last one I had an interview with the reading agency and an article online, which was lovely as the person who sorted it all out did an amazing job! I’ve also set up a YouTube channel, which is pretty impressive for me as I usually break anything technological rather than get it to work – so I was very surprised when I successfully posted not one, but two videos online – with more to come in the future! I’ve started this blog, and I’m trying to write on it more frequently and about a wider variety of things. I also took part in poetry by heart, which, although the style of competition is not really my thing (but I did it anyway) I did enjoy the experience because the other contestants were so lovely and I had a fantastic evening with them. I am so grateful to have had this incredible opportunity and can’t thank my mentor enough, who is last year’s poet laureate for the county, because he has been great, helping me go through poems and ideas and improving my writing. I have learnt a huge amount this year, not only have I learned how to be more organised (!), I’ve loved working with a variety of people and meeting people who share my love of poetry – that was an amazing feeling, having someone to share that passion with! I cannot thank staffordshire county council enough for giving me this opportunity and the people who have supported me, especially my parents (doing all the driving!) because without them I would not have had the year I have had – it has honestly been the best experience of my life!