The Best Recent Poetry Review Poetry

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Howdie-Skelp by Paul Muldoon (Faber, £ 14.99)
Very few poets, living now or otherwise, can combine high-speed wit, tongue-twisting alliteration, and dizzying rhymes with the kind of insight that makes us stop, laugh, remember; feeling envious, breathless, punch-drunk. IN Howdie-Skelp, Paul Muldoon summons the ghosts of TS Eliot and Dante to tell stories of our shattered realities, where the wilderness is everywhere and nowhere, and Virgil is an immigrant waiter offering overpriced steak tartare. With cheeky gripping and almost biblical satirical power, Muldoon captures the arrhythmia of our time and touches on voter oppression in the United States, the assassinations of Jamal Khashoggi, the hopelessness of the political two-party system and arguments for a united Ireland. With their elongated lines and elongated shapes, often cast in sequences or variations, the poems feed on memories triggered by news, TV dubbing, ruins, dam zones, or Robert Frost’s apples. They also flirt scandalously with paintings, translating the perverse and macabre into luminous comments on our desires and taboos. The book ends with 15 mutating sonnets about the rich absurdity of our pandemic life and a new state of existential confusion.

Oak by Katharine Towers

Oak by Katharine Towers (Picador, £ 10.99)
Andrew Marvell, the Renaissance poet of green thoughts and shades of green, would have liked Katharine Towers’ third collection. John Keats and John Clare might as well, though Keats might have been wary of the book’s structural predictability and Clare of its narrative ambitions. Nevertheless, many of us will find joy in Tower’s playful mix that pays homage to love songs, ballads, hymns, gossip, nonsense, and children’s verses, among other lyrical forms. Questions of poetic heritage and tree-living heritage run deep in Oak. The book’s sections, which echo Shakespeare’s seven human ages, tell the story of one’s life – the infant, the schoolboy, the lover, the soldier, justice, pantaloon, old man – and are told as fables with a lyrical freshness that is striking. occasionally chopped. Mostly unpunctuated, the poems are heavily invested in metaphors and parables (“as” is a popular word). Towers have a natural gift for unfolding the tension between personifying and depersonalizing nature. Her shamelessly descriptive poems evoke the private and public life of the oak tree, speaking with “the peculiarity of a tongue / which cannot help but curl”.

Amnion by Stephanie Sy-For

Amnion band Stephanie Sy-For (Granta, £ 10.99)
If memory provides the architecture of stories, then how do we build a house of ruins? Stephanie Sy-Quia’s debut, Amnion, is a daring reconstruction. A kaleidoscopic memoir and family elegy, it is also an interracial, intercultural love letter to the past, built around individual people, architecture and museum objects. “Hacked of your origin to be embedded in this museum, I have made / a cathedral for all my colonialism,” the speaker announces. In a way, Amnion is a well-known detective story about migration, multiple origins and traumas and opportunities for dislocation; part of the current diasporic literature haunted by hosts of trans-generational ghosts. Nevertheless, the book has a structural irreconcilability that makes it memorable. By equating the lyrical with the prosaic, Sy-Quia excavates the privacy and public arenas with the dexterity and precision of a genealogist. Hers is a voice of a meandering seeker who traces bits of memory and elusive objects in Paris, Manila, Munich, Sheffield, Rome, Tripoli, Myanmar, Barcelona … If some moments seem strained, forces lines and paragraphs to merge against the grain. , there is no doubt that Sy-Quia has written a powerful, hybrid song filled with wildness and fragility.

New and selected poems by Ian Duhig


New and selected poems by Ian Duhig (Picador, £ 14.99)
Duhig is one of our most engaging maverick poets, with a magical gift for storytelling. Always historically, socially and humanly grounded, and generously eclectic in his embrace, he harnesses the transformative power of oral history to shed light on an unpredictable spectrum of different peoples, religions, anecdotes, jokes, and social and racial injustices. He is never flashy and maintains the fine balance between truth and disguise that is central to art. There is tenderness in his serious humor, whether he writes about mustache vests, hemophobia, goths or ailments. Like Tennyson or Browning, Duhig is a master of the dramatic monologue that stretches the first person to contain crowds. He has a seance-like ability to get into a speaker’s mind and translate their voice across centuries, cultures and languages, whether it’s a Japanese geisha or a damn tablet in a Roman bath. The book shows his virtuoso mastery of sonnets, couplets, folk songs, rosaries, charms, satires, elegies and more, and confirms Duhig as a dazzling etymological magician who helps us reconnect to our words and worlds: “With such ink, a pretty feather; / a feather pen turns into a swan. “

Kit Fan’s latest collection of poems is As Slow As Possible (Arc), and his debut novel is Diamond Hill (Dialogue).

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