Books Magazine

Ut Pictura Poesis. What? Precisely.

By Ashleylister @ashleylister
Never one to miss an opportunity to exploit an online contact, I sent a message to Bloodaxe's Neil Astley back in April to ask him to recommend a book on poetics for me.  I've read Stephen Fry's Ode Less Travelled and Glyn Maxwell's On Poetry (thanks Jamie!) but beside the more academic books which were recommended at Blackpool & Fylde College, haven't read an awful lot around the subject.  I wanted something to get my teeth into.  His response certainly gave me that:
For reading or writing? For writing, Peter Sansom's Writing Poems. For reading and writing, The Princeton Encyclopedia of Poetry and Poetics which covers everything you could possibly want to know.

The former is a brilliant resource for its writing games (think workshop planning) and quick guide to some of the best contemporary poets with reasons why they rock.  This book therefore doubles as a bluffer's guide to the British poetry scene in the 21st century.  It has loads of practical tips, some of which are suitable for new writers wishing to learn the craft and others which give an 'Ohhh, yeah -that's what they're doing' moment for those who have been lingering on the scene for a while and wondering how the best poets do what they do.

The latter is an incredible tome which I dearly wish I'd bought in hard copy rather than for my Kindle.  You know the joy you get from flicking through an encyclopedia and picking out something fascinating at random?  This purchase led to the conclusion that e-books are definitely not superior to print.  There is so much information in this book and flicking through it in order is really unsatisfactory.  I'll try to give you an idea of what it covers:
Ut pictura poesis.  What?  Precisely.
Yes, that is half of the index page covering Al - An.  It's bloody amazing isn't it?  It gets me all hot and bothered that index.  Blackpool and Fylde doesn't have it in their library catalog.  Nor does Blackpool Central Library.  I wonder if the wonderful folks at the Library Service could be convinced to order it for their burgeoning population of keen poets? 
As for my own recommendation, I'm going to plump for something a little closer to home.  Sculpted is an anthology edited and devised by the minds behind the North West Poets' group; Lindsey Holland and Angela Topping.  The contents page reads like a who's who of poetry from the north of England and every time I dip into it I end up lost in its pages for an unfeasibly long time.  This list includes Rachel McGladdery, Cath Nichols, David Riley, John Siddique; all poets who have written for the Dead Good Blog at some point.  The many other contributers are on my hit list for the near future.
Honorable mentions must go to the powerhouse of poetry that is Kim Moore (follow her blog for weekly in-depth poetry analysis and why not buy a copy of her book If We Could Speak Like Wolves - it's insightful, funny and full of carefully observed portraits) and V A Sola Smith who I am yet to meet but would love to shake by the hand, if only for the phrase 'the not-yet ghouls, tripping unseen about their fate' from her poem about kids in a seaside town, Poor Fish.  The book has an introduction from David Morley and the front cover bears the following quote from our poet laureate: "The North West is a hotbed of poetry.  If you want to know why, read this book."
Copies of the book can be bought via the Wordpress page.
Now, I don't expect to hear another peep from you until you've read all of the above.  Then we'll talk poetry.

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