Autumn Journal: Louis MacNeice

Louis MacNeice wrote this “journal”—a poem split into 24 parts—from August 1938 to the beginning of 1939. It was a time of uncertainty, with the Second World War looming. This is a poem of endings: the ending of a love affair, of summer, of the year, of the comforts and joys of peacetime, and of …

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The World’s Wife: Carol Ann Duffy

History and myth have often focused on men: Sisyphus, Lazarus, Herod, Pilate, Midas, Faust, Freud… But what of their wives? Who were they and what did they think of their men? These women are brought to life in Carol Ann Duffy’s collection of poems. The wives of the men mentioned above, female figures like Salomé, …

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Kumukanda: Kayo Chingonyi

I’ve discovered new poets as part of the reading challenge, and two of them have blown me away. One is Kendall Hippolyte from St. Lucia, and the second is Kayo Chingonyi from Zambia. In north-western Zambia, tribes have an initiation ritual for young boys called kumukunda. During the ritual, the boys live apart from the …

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Life’s sentences

I have several books of poetry on my shelf...and now, on my Kindle. I leaf (or swipe) through them in the spaces between fiction, when I am recovering from an intense or troubling story or when the weather puts me in the mood for contemplation rather than escape. There are some I return to periodically, …

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The House of Belonging: David Whyte

“At the centre of this life there is a man I want to know again.” Do we lose something of ourselves as we scurry through life, running to make the next deadline and dealing with the mundane business of day-to-day life? David Whyte’s poems is a reminder of how important it is to come back …

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Sentenced to Life: Clive James

These are poems written by a man who is sick and dying. But, surprisingly, this is not a depressing book. Clive James—a writer, critic, broadcaster and more—looks at his life and imminent death with honesty, clarity and a sense of humour. As he says in the acknowledgements, “you can say that you’re on your last …

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Night Vision: Kendall Hippolyte

The blurb on the back of this collection of poems from Kendall Hippolyte, a Santa Lucian poet, says “He writes in sonnets and villanelles, in idiomatic dramatic monologues that capture the rhythm of Caribbean speech, blues and rap”. This juxtaposition of the formal and informal, the old and the new, intrigued me. And I was …

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