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Ten Poems about History

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This wonderfully varied selection of poems demonstrates the vast scope of the word history. We’re transported on a dizzying journey from the beginnings of time all the way to a ciné-film that brings the past right into the present.

The poems look through both ends of the telescope and take us from the epic to the everyday, via harpsichord players, pitchfork rebellions, shipyards and family china:

“glaze veined
with grains of dirt

archivists of our own lives”

from ‘Crockery, Blue and White’ by Linda France.

The selection carries the fascinating idea that history is what we remember of our own lives as much as the events we read about in books, and that sometimes the two can overlap – as for the speaker in Patrick Kavanagh’s masterly poem, who reflects that he has “lived in important times”.

These are poems that look at history from every angle, finding richness and vividness in each corner of the past.

Poems by Rita Dove, Alistair Elliot, Linda France, Patrick Kavanagh, Hannah Lowe, Sean O’Brien, Caitríona O’Reilly, Louis Simpson and Tamar Yoseloff.

Cover illustration by Sam Cannon.

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