Sixth in the series where I ask people to choose their favourite poetry books. I realised last week that I have a list of poets to ask, but I am not on it. So I have added myself, today! Like everyone else, I can choose 5-8 books, one of which can be an adult collection, one of which must be my own. I may cheat. It’s easier for me than everyone else.
Here are my choices! These are my sticky poetry books. The ones that have have poetry glue in their pages that keep me reading. The ones I go back to again and again. At least, some of them, the ones not by my close poetry friends whose books are impossible for me to choose between!
One. This is the oldest! The Birds and the Beasts Were There, Animal Poems Selected by William Cole, 1963, The World Publishing Company. William Cole was an American poet and anthologist. The illustrations are fabulous wood cuts by Helen Siegl. The poems have great variety, many I had not heard before, lots to love in here, by poets such as E. V. Rieu. The whole book is delightful.
Two. My second choice is the next oldest; the first book of poems and illustrations by Colin West, Out of the Blue From Nowhere, 1976, Dobson Books Ltd. I don’t think there is another edition of this, so feel very blessed to have this book. I suspect that publishers immediately realised his talent for charming absurdity and humour in both words and illustrations and snapped him up immediately. These are no early, naive beginnings. Colin West clearly sprang out of the blue from nowhere himself and has remained somewhere ever since. Still producing wonderfulness which you can enjoy on Twitter.
Three. In 1999 I went to Canada for a couple of months while my husband was editing a film about grizzly bears, in the mountains. We were in the mountains, as well as the grizzly bears for 6 weeks but then we went to Vancouver for a holiday. I was taken to Vancouver children’s books store. It had an excellent collection of children’s books, and this was one of them. Here I learned to love Naomi Shihab Nye’s poems, and her choices for this collection. The voices in this book are so redolent with the language and culture of the poets, it’s like stepping into a new world and life with each poem. Up with the best, ever. This Same Sky, A collection of Poems from Around the World, selected by Naomi Shihab Nye, 1992, Aladdin Paperbacks.
Four. Gerard Benson. An actor, speech lecturer at the Central School for Speech and Drama, Barrow Poet, Quaker… and as I knew him, children’s poet. We met more than yearly for many years for a week’s poetry retreat in the country. Gerard’s poems are perfect. They speak plainly but sing, and every one is rounded for me with his rich and resonant voice. Thank goodness he is still here, in these books. Evidence of Elephants, Poems by Gerard Benson, 1995, Viking.
Five. Tony Mitton. Tony’s poems are a dreamy journey that surround you with a story and bring you along, much like the title of this lovely book. Atmospheric and full of word play and fun. Come into this Poem, Poems by Tony Mitton, 2011, Otter-Barry.
Six. I’m not sure if this book is for adults or children, but it is certainly accessible to both, which I like. The title of this book is the title of my all-time favourite poem – Overheard on a Saltmarsh by Harold Munro. Read as a child, it sent goosebumps up my arms then and still does – and I still don’t really know why. The strangeness of the situation, the speakers, the desire, the danger, the atmosphere? It is a poem that does not leave you. A poem I’m sure every poet would like to write. Overheard on a Saltmarsh, Poets’ Favourite Poems, edited by Carol Ann Duffy, 2003, Picador.
Seven. My last choice of other people’s books. This book is also American but is my favourite anthology of all time. These poems are delicious. The illustrations are perfect, hard to achieve with poetry. They fill each page with excitement, delicacy, place, life and the character of each animal, whilst still leaving space for and enhancing the poems. This is my PERFECT anthology. The Beauty of the Beast, Poems from the Animal Kingdom, selected by Jack Prelutsky, illustrated by Meilo So, Alfred A Knopf.
Eight. Serendipitously, today I received my latest book. This is my heart book, the book I’ve always wanted to do. Be the Change, Poems to Help you Save the World, Liz Brownlee, Matt Goodfellow, Roger Stevens, Macmillan. Sustainability poems, with ‘how to help’ tips for young people to feel empowered. It’s out on September 5th.
That’s my lot! There are so many more… but they’ll have to wait until next time. Perhaps a series of choices on particular subjects?