Titles Read: Kate Baer What Kind of Woman (Orion), Cat Poems (by the World’s Greatest Poets) (Serpent’s Tail), David O’Hanlon History (Valley Press), Wendy Cope Making Cocoa For Kingsley Amis (Faber), Frances Horovitz Collected Poems (Bloodaxe), Maya A. Horton Valley of Winter (Black Light Engine Room), Things That Go Bump In The Night (Dreich)
This week the Big Stack has delivered another wide variety of poetry, and I am finding my rhythm getting a book read per day!
Notable among this week’s selections were David O’Hanlon’s History and Wendy Cope’s Making Cocoa For Kingsley Amis. Two more different collections you probably will not find, but I wanted to talk about them together as both writers know their subjects very well (Classics and Mythology for O’Hanlon, British Poetry for Cope) and put their knowledge to vastly different uses in their collections.
David O’Hanlon’s poetry is some of the most moving I have ever come across, and I was eager to read this collection. What I was not prepared for was how deeply the book dives into classics and mythology. This was a treat for me, as I love the Greek myths, and the myth of Orpheus in particular formed part of the focus of my MA thesis (no doubt there will be a blog about this at some point). O’Hanlon’s own ‘Orpheus’ is a wonderful poem; so intensely atmospheric that you can almost really hear the scribbling of the pencil on the paper.
What makes History work so well is the way that O’Hanlon sets his poems about ancient stories and characters alongside poems of personal history; using poetry to explore, interpret, and even at times change the past, as we do mythology. This combination of the personal and the classical forms a collection which appeals to both academic interest and our emotions.
In Making Cocoa For Kingsley Amis, Wendy Cope takes knowledge of her subject in a completely different direction. I haven’t laughed so much while reading a poetry collection in years! From parodies of T. S. Eliot and William Wordsworth to the caricature doggerel of her awful fictional poet Strugnell, Cope uses her familiarity with the big names of British poetry to craft a clever and funny collection which definitively makes the case for comic verse.
This week, I also loved Frances Horovitz’ Collected Poems. I bought this a few years ago on the strength of a single poem, which I had briefly discussed in my thesis. ‘This Eurydice made it –ʹ made a big impression on me during my studies, and Horovitz’ collected works impacted me just as much. Her writing is adventurous, her language and use of metaphor fresh and brave. A writer myself, I have been in a slump for the best part of a year, but Horovitz’ poetry woke up the wonder in me and has absolutely got the juices flowing once again.
One of the most obvious virtues of the Sealey Challenge is making discoveries like these!
You can purchase the titles I have mentioned, where they are available, at the above links. Don’t forget, members get 25% off!