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POETRY

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Ten Poems from the Ground (£5.95)

Ten Poems from the Ground (£5.95)

The ground is warming, the trees are greening, the time for growth is back – and poetry can speak to us inside and out, whether we know it or not.

A satisfying new brochure in Candlestick Press’ wonderful series (designed to be mailed instead of on a card) offers a rich and fertile insight into the land that sustains us.

Ten poems from the ground (£5.95) features works by different writers (Margaret Atwood and Ruth Pitter, for example) celebrating mushrooms, moles, worms, potatoes and more. It’s a mini-anthology of love for the earth.

Why is “down to earth” a compliment when applied to people? Because most of us like down-to-earth honesty.

Alexa, what is there to know about love?  (Picador, £10.99)

Alexa, what is there to know about love? (Picador, £10.99)

Memo for Spring (Polygon £10)

Memo for Spring (Polygon £10)

It’s the joyful keynote of Brian Bilston’s verse in Alexa, what is there to know about love? (Picador, £10.99) Dubbed ‘the unofficial poet laureate of Twitter’, Bilson tackles topics as gloriously diverse as forgetting a wedding anniversary or reflecting on rebellious old age.

The Caveman’s Lament is a hilarious imagery of Neanderthal indigence (“I tell her how much I love her / she tells me love doesn’t invent yet”) but also a commentary on universal love disappointment. “Remembrance of Things Pasta” works the same way. The entire collection is rooted in a contagious joie de vivre.

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It is always fascinating to return to the original root of a poet’s success.

Liz Lochhead is one of Britain’s leading poets, but in 1972 she was an absolute beginner. His first book, Memo for spring (Polygon £10), is now reprinted with a foreword by the poet and an introduction by Ali Smith. Fifty years later, Lochhead comments: “Nothing else from me will ever set the heather on fire like my first collection…”

This was probably because Lochhead was a young and fresh female voice in the male world of Scottish poetry and those early poems are just as uplifting and entertaining to read today.

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A poem like Memo To Myself For Spring, with its ironic piece about March, April and May, reminded me (a year older than the poet) that I was in my twenties and saw the simple promise of blooming with a carefully cultivated and cynical gaze.

But even then young Lochhead foresaw the cheerfulness of a more carefree old age: “When the crow’s feet seize me, I’ll call them laugh lines.” All right, my sister!

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