The new year in poetry promises exciting débuts from fresh talents as well as old hands turning in new directions
THE GALLERY PRESS will publish a rich varied selection of new collections throughout 2014. Manchester- based Longford native Vona Groarke‘s eagerly awaited sixth collection of poems, entitled X, is already generating considerable excitement, not least among the Poetry Book Society, who have made X their Poetry Book Society recommendation for Spring 2014. X is described as “a book of honesty and poise: its lustrous detail and exacting truths make this a groundbreaking publication from a poet hailed in Poetry Ireland Review as ‘among the best Irish poets writing today’.”
Other titles from the Meath publisher include From Elsewhere (March), a new collection of poems from Ciaran Carson, the ever- prolific Belfast poet who doesn’t seem to sleep; the late Pearse Hutchinson‘s poems will be appear in the spring; Gallery Press founder and publisher Peter Fallon will publish Strong, My Love in April, which will be his first collection since 2007’s The Company of Horses.
Also returning with new work is Limerick poet Sean Lysaght, whose sixth collection is tentatively titled Carnival Masks. The inspiration for the working title came from a poem in which Lysaght describes a journey back to his home in Co. Mayo, after several months spent in Italy, and tidying away a pair of masks that the poet and his wife bought at the Carnevale di Viareggio, held every February in the Tuscan city of Viareggio, Italy.
According to Lysaght, the collection has “…a calendar structure: many poems with references to the natural world can be connected to a particular time of year. The first poem is called ‘Skylarks in January’, then there’s a February piece, a March piece, and so on. The calendar pattern is not absolutely strict, and there are other poems in the book as well, but it allowed me a way of organising an array of material, and of connecting poems about Mayo with poems set in Italy, where my wife and I spent a winter about four years ago.”
DOIRE PRESS are likely to be still celebrating, following Adam White’s appearance on the shortlist for the Forward Prize for Best First Collection, this year. However, the Connemara- based publisher will publish the début collection of poems from Dimitra Xidous, the Dublin- based Greek- Canadian poet and co- founder / co- editor of The Pickled Body. Entitled Keeping Bees, Xidous’ first collection will no doubt feature poems that have featured in the Bridport and Over the Edge Emerging Writer prizes, as well as work that is due to appear in The New Planet Cabaret and the Spring 2014 edition of The Stinging Fly, in which she will be a featured poet.
BLOODAXE have two Irish poets on their list for 2014: Harry Clifton‘s The Holding Centre: Selected Poems 1974-2004 will appear in February.
Interestingly, a bi- lingual selection of Louis de Paor’s poems will feature in The Brindled Cat and the Nightingale’s Tongue, a book which de Paor worked on with a trio translators, consisting of Kevin Anderson, Biddy Jenkinson and Mary O’Donoghue. According to Bloodaxe, “the translations have eschewed the modern fashion for so-called “versions”, producing English translations which are as close as possible to the original Irish poems without sacrificing their tone, energy, clarity and lightness of touch.”
FABER‘s list of new poetry books for 2014 includes a typical mix of commissioned translations, an opportunity to revise the poetry of authors with considerable work under their belt, as well as new work from emerging talents.
Too often dismissed as too didactic and a political poet in an age of political apathy, Tom Paulin‘s New Selected Poems (May) comes at a time when there is a severe lack of well- written, well- executed political poetry. One only has to read Paulin’s current Selected Poems, 1972 – 1990 to find a poet whose gift for wrapping the demotic tones of his native Ulster around technically skilled, enviably crafted poems. Paulin’s New Selected Poems is a welcome opportunity to revise four decades worth of work, including poems from Walking a Line (1994), The Wind Dog (1999) and last year’s Love’s Bonfire.
Once described by Allen Ginsberg as “A loner, a genius.”, New Jersey- born, San Francisco- based poet August Kleinzahler is undoubtedly one of foremost American poets currently writing. The wider availability of Kleinzahler’s collections on this side of the Atlantic, including 1995’s Red Sauce, Whiskey and Snow, 2000’s Green Sees Things in Waves, 2004’s excellent The Strange Hours That Travellers Keep and 2008’s Sleeping it Off in Rapid City: New and Selected Poems, have seen the oft described “pugilist” poet’s stock rise considerably.
Kleinzahler’s latest collection, Hotel Oneira, will no doubt feature the collision course of registers, the unpredictable cadences and the savvy, street poetry that have characterised Kleinzahler’s best work. Writing in the Irish Times, John McAuliffe has described Hotel Oneira as a collection “…with spiky portraits (and self-portraits) alongside the American landscapes that have become his speciality, moving easily and mysteriously between domestic close-ups of the weather and noodling riffs on the state of the modern world.”
At a reading that Kleinzahler was giving and which I attended, a compere- who claimed to be an expert in Kleinzahler’s work and spent more than ten minutes introducing and explaining Kleinzahler’s work to us mere mortals in the audience- made the unfortunate mistake of continually referring to August Kleinzahler as “Awgoooost” Kleinzahler, rather than pronouncing Kleinzahler’s forename as one would pronounce the month of the same name. Perhaps- perhaps- Kleinzahler’s new collection will be appreciated to the point where even experts in his oeuvre can pronounce his name.
While we may have to wait a while for a new collection from Simon Armitage, the Yorkshire poet’s translation of The Last Days of Troy (May), commissioned by the Royal Exchange for performance in April 2014. A retelling of The Iliad, there’s no doubt that Armitage will freshen up the classical text as he has done with his engaging translations of The Odyssey, Sir Gawain and The Green Knight and The Death of King Arthur.
On the note of translations, versions, imitations and all that, Lavinia Greenlaw‘s A Double Sorrow (February), which takes its title from the opening line of Chaucher’s Troilus and Criseyde- of which A Double Sorrow is a retelling- and which is neither translation nor version; rather, Greenlaw’s retelling takes the form of seven- line vignettes.
Twelve years on from his Collected Poems, Hugo Williams returns in April with I Knew the Bride, his first collection of poems since 2006’s excellent West End Final, which, no doubt, will explore his parents’ theatrical vocations and his portraits of London in the 50’s, all shot through with the ironic bite and sardonic humour that we’ve come to expect from Williams.
Due in February, Tony Martinez de las Rivas‘ début collection, Terror (February), promises poems that are “…political, social, theological, historical and personal, the poems in this debut collection work closely with the reader, asking questions of us and encouraging us never to settle for inadequate answers.” Rivas was previously featured in Faber’s New Poets series.
THE BIG WIN for poetry in 2014, however, is undoubtedly Dedalus Press‘ If Ever You Go: A Map of Dublin in Poetry and Song (February), which has been chosen as the One City: One Book title for 2014. Supported by Dublin City Council and led by Dublin City Public libraries, the award- winning initiative has been a resounding success.
First published in 1969, James Plunkett’s Strumpet City was given a new lease of life, this year. The very fact that Plunkett’s masterpiece topped the Irish bestsellers list, thereby introducing a whole new generation to Plunkett’s great novel, was testament not only to the power of fresh ideas within Dublin City Council (yes, they do exist), but also the willingness to support Irish books of which we as readers have, perhaps, under- appreciated the significance.
Edited by Dedalus Press publisher Pat Boran and Gerard Smyth, the Irish Times’ Poetry Editor, If Ever You Go takes its title from Patrick Kavanagh’s poem ‘If You Ever Go to Dublin Town’ (If ever you go to Dublin town / In a hundred years or so / Inquire for me in Baggot Street / And what I was like to know).
According to Dublin City Libraries, If Ever You Go: A Map of Dublin in Poetry and Song “…includes writing by both historical and contemporary figures, among them Swift, Synge, Yeats, Joyce, Kavanagh and Ó Direáin as well as Seamus Heaney, Eavan Boland, Dermot Bolger, Paula Meehan, Nuala Ní Dhomhnaill and Derek Mahon. There are songs and ballads from the city’s colonial past, verses by leaders of the 1916 Rising, and portraits of the modern city with its Spire and Luas tram, its Celtic Tiger ‘prosperity’ and its post-Celtic Tiger challenges.”
In a country which looks as if it is about to overdose on a lethal concoction short stories and flash fiction, it is finally good to see Irish poetry featured on the same platform as prose.