e a m harris

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Archive for the tag “poetry anthology”

On re-reading ‘The Rattle Bag’

7fb35406cc300cf593138475541434f414f4141For my late night reading lately I’ve been re-reading The Rattle Bag, a poetry anthology edited by Seamus Heaney and Ted Hughes. Apparently the original intention was a collection aimed at the young or new poetry reader, but it doesn’t shirk serious subjects like death, love or loneliness. I love it and, to judge by the reviews around the web, so do many other not-so-young people.

Here is a collection of poems to which the term ‘quirky’ seriously applies, though there are plenty of ‘normal’ poems for readers who like their quirky in moderate doses.

On a more serious level the book goes to the edge of what poetry is, both in subject and form: midnight mice, no punctuation and horses eating violins crowd together with the more traditional.

One of the innovations is to arrange the poems alphabetically by title. This means that the usual pattern of date or subject is broken up. Sylvia Plath is on the same page as Shakespeare, while a pet cat precedes a pilgrim.

I’ve had this book for some years (it was published in 2005) and have read most of the poems already, some several times. However, this time I’ve had a serious look at the glossary at the back.

Many of the entries are dialect or archaic terms I already knew, and some I don’t really want to know: should I care that a danegun is an “old firearm, fairly primitive”?

But there are plenty of new-to-me words to enjoy. I’ve seen many solons (gannets) in my time, but have never met a goney (albatross). As I write the gullies (seagulls) are squawking outside. I didn’t know a rack was a cloud in the upper air and I wonder if, like other clouds, it can be scrowed (streaked).

Cities

Cities coverYesterday I picked up my copy of Cities: A Book of Poems, an anthology compiled by S Philip. It has one of my poems in it, and it’s nice to see my work in print on a freshly opened page.

But I didn’t buy it just for that; as an ex-Londoner and urbophile, I was keen to see what other poets had made of the subject. The answer is – lots. The pages of the book are crowded with lovers, haters and indifferenters of cities. They work, play, run, stroll, take photos and do a lot of remembering.

Leah Angstman describes the fine detail of a season in memory (Autumn on Oak Street), while Barbara Wiedemann introduces us to the homeless (Urban Homesteading) and Pearse Murray has a city full of noise and ghosts (Timbral City). Others give us stories covering years or records of moments in time. I’ll enjoy dipping into this book for some time to come.

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