Top 3 poetry books of the last decade

Hello! Compiling this (incredibly short) list, I discovered two things: 1. It’s far too rare an occurence that poetry truly grabs me, 2: this needs to be rectified. To be fair, I’ve only gotten serious about writing poetry in the last year or so, and even though I buy books and magazines fairly regularly, there’s still an awful lot more out there I need to discover and tap into. Tracking down authors whose work really makes my creative engine whir is a very difficult thing to do, most likely because I am quite picky, or simply because it just takes more unusual things to interest me in poetry, as it does in every other area of my life. I’m not just narrowing that down to things being “weird” persay (in fact a lot of purposefully weird poetry can be bloody awful), but “original”. The three books that instantly leapt out at me when making this list, whether discussing the bizarre or the mundane, just have a certain distinction that makes them different from the overhwleming crop of poets who seem to perpetually walk around in a Disney-like daze, never-endingly speechless by the wonder of birds, potted plants, goats, birds, and autumn and birds.

The Solex Brothers by Luke Kennard

Kennard was a God-send for me. I’d read poetry I liked, but only when I purchased The Harbour Beyond the Movie did I realize poetry didn’t have to be about all the things poets usually write about – it could be completely imagined, with characters and bizarre imagery and whole worlds teeming with life, yet still deal with real people and thoughts and have something to say. If a poem is completely dwelling in the land of fairytale, it can fail to connect a bit, and threatens to become some sort of horrible “magic poetry”. Kennard writes thought-provoking pieces with sharpened observations, just as many other poets do; the difference is, he actually uses his imagination and makes his work interesting to read. Yes he can be quite academic and you often feel you’re missing the joke unless you’ve a certain specialised knowledge, but his poems are so startlingly original it doesn’t matter one bit, they’re just such an exhillerating rush to read, complete candy for the creative part of the mind. I’ve purchased all three of his collections, but The Solex Brothers stands apart for me; I don’t think he’s quite let himself go as much as the mind-blowingly original pieces contained within this book.

Public Dream by Frances Leviston

This is, to my mind, the first poetry book I remember activley loving. There’s so much to say for this author, not least in regards to her grace and poise and feeling of quiet meditation. Were those things simply used to describe the scenery, however, the impact would not be so great. Leviston’s subject matter is usually dark and “outsider” – she feels remorse and confusion after a night out; she confesses to feeling a moments relief when waking to find her partner’s side of the bed empty; she has a tendency to explore in graphic detail the corpses of animals and to slip into dream-narrative. All these things give her book a half-remembered, half-awake lucidness, like a dream of some beautiful snowstorn. She is unashamedly honest about her feelings, and the way she sees things are often completely at odds with society’s received wisdom. I’m really, really looking forward to her next one.

 

The Brand New Dark by Mark Waldron

I must confess, I don’t love this book as I do the others, it’s more that I think it’s interesting and has a distinct style. Waldron tends to write in a slightly off-kilter, slightly dark and weird way, while being subtle about it. His poems are short, sharp and crisp and technically beautiful. He seems to home in on tiny tiny details, such as the gap in a curtain, and therein begins to conjur all sorts of dreamy imagery; what begins with a pretty mundane surface idea soon dips into a world wholly of the imagination. The feel of this book is that of delving down through dark water, and all the blurred, out of focus, ancient things you’ll find down there. There are poems with references to severed brains and what they might be thinking, shallow androids after one night stands, obsession with pornography, and one particularly odd piece about giant snails and trains.

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