Top Poetry Books this Autumn

This is by no means an exhaustive list of new poetry but rather a stock take of the best poetry books we’ve read over the last six months. Reading poetry can be both meditative and contemplative, it can restore and often renew your sense of wellbeing in a single line.

The Poetry Pharmacy: Tried-and-true Prescriptions for the Heart, Mind and Soul, edited by William Sieghart £9.99 Particular Books

This cloth-bound gem of a book was given to me and I have had it by my bedside ever since. There are no poems in here that require you to have an English degree. Split into big categories covering, for instance, Mental and Emotional Wellbeing and then broken down further into Anxiety, Compulsive Behaviour, Emotional Baggage etc. Here is one of my favourite couple of lines in one poem:

Failing and Flying by Jack Gilbert

‘… I believe Icarus was not failing as he fell,
but just coming to the end of his triumph.’

The Sun and her Flowers by Rupi Kaur £10.99 Simon & Schuster

The runaway bestseller last Christmas was this second volume of poems by the poet Rupi Kaur; the first volume Milk and Honey is relaunched in November. Thoroughly modern, feminist poems. Emma Watson is a huge fan and often quotes from the poems on her excellent Instagram @ourshardshelf I love her use of space on the page, which works so well in this poem in particular. 

‘This is the recipe of life
said my mother
as she held me in her arms as I wept
think of those flowers you plant
in the garden each year
they will teach you
that people too
must wilt
in order to bloom.’

Wild Embers: Poems of Rebellion, Fire and Beauty by Nikita Gill £8.60

Nikita is fascinated by the universe, space and magic. Watch out for her new book Fierce Fairytales (published at the beginning of September), an empowering retelling in poems and stories of well-known fairytales for modern readers. This excerpt is from a poem in Wild Embers.

Take the wildest thing about you
and nuture it till it blossoms….’

The Flame by Leonard Cohen £14 Canongate

No list of poetry books would be complete without Leonard Cohen. This hardcover book, published next month, is the final collection of poetry from the world’s greatest lyricist Leonard Cohen, introduced by his son Adam Cohen.

Ten Poems edited by various authors £4.95 Candlestick Press

These books/cards are an ingenious idea. Just ten poems by famous poets on themes such as Sisters, Gardens, Friendship, Kindness etc. 

Over the Moon by Imtiaz Dharker £12 Bloodaxe Books 

My favourite book out of all the ones listed here. Imitiaz was born in Pakistan, grew up in a Lahori household in Glasgow, was adopted by India and now lives in Wales so she has many ingredients to bring to her breathtaking poetry. Poems of joy and sadness about music, church bells, beds and café tables.

The Conversation 

As long as you are listening,
as long as you are breathing,
as long as you keep the conversation going,
he will go on living.’

Why do Caged Birds Sing by Maya Angelou £6.29 Virago

The international classic. You are familiar no doubt with many of her autobiographical poems. One for your bookshelf if it’s not there already. 

Why do Caged Birds Sing 

The free bird thinks of another breeze
And the trade winds soft through
The signing trees
And the fat worms waiting on a dawn-bright
Lawn and he names the sky his own …..’

A Poem for Every Night of the Year edited by Allie Esiri, £16.99 Macmillan

Although dubbed as ages 5-9 this book works for all ages, adults included. Read just one poem each evening and journey through the seasons and history with a wide assortment of wonderful writers from Mary Oliver to Walter de la Mare to Michael Rosen. The beautiful cover makes it a perfect gift – in fact I was given it for Christmas and opened it on New Years Day to this Susan Coolidge poem that was an encouraging start to the new year:

Every day is a fresh beginning,
Listen my soul to the glad refrain.
And, spite of old sorrows
And older sinning,
Troubles forecasted
And possible pain,
Take heart with the day and begin again.

Useless Magic by Florence Welch, £20 Fig Tree

Florence and the Machine songs set the tone for this poetry and lyrics scrapbook that features scribblings on Chateau Marmont writing paper, sketches and William Morris prints amongst the poetic musings and lyrical excerpts. Florence described the process of committing the words to paper as “even more exposing” than singing. The vulnerable, magical, anthemic and deeply personal are bound up into this beautiful volume.

Top Poetry Books this Autumn
— Annie Reid
19th September 2018