New and forthcoming

Assurances

J. O. Morgan

A war-poem both historic and frighteningly topical, Assurances begins in the 1950s during a period of vigilance and dread in the middle of the Cold War: the long stand-off between nuclear powers, where the only defence was the threat of mutually assured destruction.

Using a mix of versed and unversed passages, Morgan places moments of calm reflection alongside the tensions inherent in guarding against such a permanent threat. A work of variations and possibilities, we hear the thoughts of those involved who are trying to understand and justify their roles. We examine the lives of civilians who are not aware of the impending danger, as well as those who are. We listen to the whirring minds of machines; to the voice of the bomb itself. We spy on enemy agents: always there, always somewhere close at hand.

Assurances is an intimate, dramatic work for many voices: lyrical, anxious, fragmentary and terrifying; a poem about the nuclear stalemate, the deterrent that is still in place today: how it works and how it might fail, and what will vanish if it does.

The Penguin Book of the Prose Poem

Jeremy Noel-Tod

The last decades have seen an explosion of the prose poem. More and more writers are turning to this peculiarly rich and flexible form; it defines Claudia Rankine's Citizen, one of the most talked-about books of recent years, and many others, such as Sarah Howe's Loop of Jade and Vahni Capildeo's Measures of Expatriation, make extensive use of it. Yet this fertile mode which in its time has drawn the likes of Charles Baudelaire, Oscar Wilde, T. S. Eliot, Gertrude Stein and Seamus Heaney remains, for many contemporary readers, something of a mystery.

The history of the prose poem is a long and fascinating one. Here, Jeremy Noel-Tod reconstructs it for us by selecting the essential pieces of writing - by turns luminous, brooding, lamentatory and comic - which have defined and developed the form at each stage, from its beginnings in nineteenth-century France, through the twentieth-century traditions of Britain and America and beyond the English language, to the great wealth of material written internationally since 2000. Comprehensively told, it yields one of the most original and genre-changing anthologies to be published for some years, and offers readers the chance to discover a diverse range of new poets and new kinds of poem, while also meeting famous names in an unfamiliar guise.

Wade in the Water

Tracy K. Smith

Even the men in black armor, the ones
Jangling handcuffs and keys, what else

Are they so buffered against, if not love's blade
Sizing up the heart's familiar meat?

In Wade in the Water, Pulitzer Prize-winning poet Tracy K. Smith's signature voice - inquisitive, lyrical and wry - turns over what it means to be a citizen, a mother and an artist in a culture arbitrated by wealth, men and violence. The various connotations of the title, taken from a spiritual once sung on the Underground Railroad which smuggled slaves to safety in 19th-century America, resurface throughout the book, binding past and present together. Collaged voices and documents recreate both the correspondence between slave owners and the letters sent home by African Americans enlisted in the US Civil War. Survivors' reports attest to the experiences of recent immigrants and refugees. Accounts of near-death experiences intertwine with the modern-day fallout of a corporation's illegal pollution of a major river and the surrounding land; and, in a series of beautiful lyrical pieces, the poet's everyday world and the growth and flourishing of her daughter are observed with a tender and witty eye. Marrying the contemporary and the historical to a sense of the transcendent, haunted and holy, this is a luminous book by one of America's essential poets.

The House with Only an Attic and a Basement

Kathryn Maris

'But back to the summer day the spike
grazed my brother's scalp: I slept beside him
in his racing car bed and my father woke me
and slapped my face, thinking, I assume, of sex,
whereas I was already thinking about death.'

Urban, suburban, observant, obsessive and wickedly witty, the poems in Kathryn Maris's third book range over such subjects as parenthood, marriage, adultery, the politics of children's sports contests, female incarceration and psychoanalysis. The House with Only an Attic and a Basement is that rare thing: a darkly funny collection of poems that courses with keen intelligence, yet carries its sophistication lightly so that it is a pleasure to stride along with every poem.

Who Is Mary Sue?

Sophie Collins

The village is always on fire.
Men stay away from the kitchens,
take up in outhouses with concrete floors,
while the women - soot in their hair -
initiate the flames into their small routines.

In this potent and original first collection, Sophie Collins sets out to examine women's creative autonomy and the cultural assumptions stacked against it: the denigration of women's writing, and by extension of women more generally, which so often proceeds from a conviction that women cannot write other than autobiographically; that they cannot invent; and that, even when it cannot be denied that they have done so, they have somehow gone about it in the wrong way.

Here, multiple modes of writing are brought together in service of the poet's task. In lyric essays, Collins considers the examples of other authors and poets of the 20th and 21st centuries. In shorter poems, and in the strange and lurid fragmentary narrative which runs throughout the book, she explores a series of personae, both as a means of recuperating women's writing, and as a way of writing around the blockages and silences attendant on shame and trauma.

Stylish, witty, and grounded in a unique vision, Who Is Mary Sue? announces the arrival of a major new poetic voice.

Asylum

Sean Borodale

Like his two previous books, Asylum was written live on-site; in this case deep within the caves, mines, quarries, geological and archaeological horizons of the Mendip Hills in Somerset. The poems stage modes of exile in the darkness of earth, enacting solidarity with those others who have made their journey into the underworld – Dante, Orpheus, blinded Oedipus, Euripides. These are semi-dramatic voicings, staged across the thirty-mile theatre of the Mendip subterranean: each an act of recovery, of rescue. Traversing the broken, collapsed, eroded stones, looking for voices that express the damaged and the damned, Asylum pays homage to the darkness of the human cave: its memories and ancient histories, and to its more contemporary signals – internationally owned quarries, abandoned coal mines, decommissioned Cold War bunkers.

As with Bee Journal and Human Work, these poems take on the nature of the experience recorded. Written blind, as it were, the diction here becomes mineral, deeply tactile – hard and granular, alert to sound in its own blackness. Descending underground with the poet is to enter a theatre of heightened senses, and these extraordinary poems feel both unearthed and unearthly.

The Peace of Wild Things

Wendell Berry

I come into the peace of wild things
who do not tax their lives with forethought
of grief. I come into the presence of still water.
And I feel above me the day-blind stars
waiting with their light. For a time
I rest in the grace of the world, and am free.

The poems of Wendell Berry invite us to stop, to think, to see the world around us, and to savour what is good. Here are consoling verses of hope and of healing; short, simple meditations on love, death, friendship, memory and belonging; luminous hymns to the land, the cycles of nature and the seasons as they ebb and flow. Here is the peace of wild things.

Don't Call Us Dead

Danez Smith

*Longlisted for the National Book Award for Poetry*

“[Smith's] poems are enriched to the point of volatility, but they pay out, often, in sudden joy.” --The New Yorker

Award-winning poet Danez Smith is a groundbreaking force, celebrated for deft lyrics, urgent subjects, and performative power. Don’t Call Us Dead opens with a heartrending sequence that imagines an afterlife for black men shot by police, a place where suspicion, violence, and grief are forgotten and replaced with the safety, love, and longevity they deserved here on earth. Smith turns then to desire, mortality?the dangers experienced in skin and body and blood?and a diagnosis of HIV positive. “Some of us are killed / in pieces,” Smith writes, “some of us all at once.” Don’t Call Us Dead is an astonishing and ambitious collection, one that confronts, praises, and rebukes America?“Dear White America”?where every day is too often a funeral and not often enough a miracle.

Calling a Wolf a Wolf

Kaveh Akbar

I could not be held responsible
for desire
he could not be held at all

In Calling a Wolf a Wolf, the reality of love can all too often prove disappointing at best, and life-threateningly ineffectual at worst. As Kaveh Akbar puts it in 'Heritage', a poem dedicated to an Iranian woman executed for killing the man who was attempting to rape her: 'in books love can be war-ending/...in life we hold love up to the light/ to marvel at its impotence.' Yet, as it brings us along on its author's struggle with addiction, this darkly sumptuous first collection by an award-winning poet also shows us that there can, after all, be a power and a beauty to our desires, in the strength of their flow, in their achievements and frustrations, and in the pain and joy of denying oneself for one's own sake.

These are poems of thirst: for alcohol, for other bodies, and for knowledge. They find the speaker poised between life's clatter and rattle, wanting to retreat yet hungering for more; and, though they rush forward at full tilt through a stream of reflections, memories and emotions, they are never simply indulgent. This refreshingly honest and often breathtaking addition to the canon of addiction literature will carry readers with it just as the poet is carried, and leave behind indelible images of an existence richly felt.

Works and Days

Hesiod (and others)

A new verse translation of one of the foundational ancient Greek works by the award-winning poet Alicia Stallings.

The ancient Greeks revered Hesiod, believing he had beaten Homer in a singing contest and that after his dead body was thrown to sea, it was brought back by dolphins. His Works and Days is one of the most important early works of Greek poetry. Ostensibly written by the poet to chide his lazy brother, it recounts the story of Pandora's box and humanity's decline since the Golden Age, and can be read as a celebration of rural life and a hymn to work.

The Penguin Book of Haiku

Adam L. Kern (and others)

The first Penguin anthology of Japanese haiku, in vivid new translations by Adam L. Kern.

Now a global poetry, the haiku was originally a Japanese verse form that flourished from the sixteenth to nineteenth centuries. Although renowned for its brevity, usually running over three lines in seventeen syllables, and by its use of natural imagery to make Zen-like observations about reality, in fact the haiku is much more: it can be erotic, funny, crude and mischievous. Presenting over a thousand exemplars in vivid and engaging translations, this anthology offers an illuminating introduction to this widely celebrated, if misunderstood, art form.

Adam L. Kern's new translations are accompanied here by the original Japanese and short commentaries on the poems, as well as an introduction and illustrations from the period.

One Hundred Poets, One Poem Each

Peter MacMillan (and others)

A prize-winning translation of the most widely known and popular collection of Japanese poetry.

Hyakunin Isshu is the most famous and popular collection of Japanese poetry, and the first work of Japanese literature ever to be translated into English. Compiled in the fourteenth century, the book is a collection of one hundred waka poems (a precursor of haiku), dating back to the seventh century. It's had a huge influence on Japanese culture ever since it was first published, and is considered one of the three most important works of Japanese classical literature along with The Tale of Genji and Tales of Ise.

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