Wednesday, 23 December 2015

Favourite 2015 Collections: Kim Moore, Sean O'Brien, Dan O'Brien

I'm pretty sure I've said before that I'm not much for end-of-the-year lists (I like reading other people's lists, but I'm not that excited about compiling my own.) However, I wanted to give a quick rundown of my three favourite new collections of 2015.

Kim Moore, The Art of Falling (Seren). Kim Moore's poems have both a lightness and a strength to them which is very appealing. They are personal and deeply rooted in her own family and community connections ('My People', 'A Psalm for the Scaffolders') but many of them also have a movingly timeless quality. The centre of this collection is the cycle 'How I Abandoned My Body To His Keeping' which is a spectacular sequence of poems about an abusive relationship. In poems such as 'He Was the Forgotten Thing' and 'On Eyes', the elements of such a relationship are depicted with images that seem to arise from an archetypal place, conveying the physical and emotional pain undergone by the speaker on a very deep level. You can read the poem 'How I Abandoned My Body to His Keeping' here, on Josephine Corcoran's And Other Poems blog/e-zine.

Sean O'Brien, The Beautiful Librarians (Picador). Sean O'Brien's poems live in the company of such great poets as Philip Larkin and WH Auden, but I prefer his wry, loving, sometimes sardonic depictions of British society in poems such as 'Another Country' and 'The Beautiful Librarians'. His poetry has a very strong sense of place but it also breaks the boundaries of place, and his England represents much more than just one country. I was blown away by 'The Lost of England', an epic, reflective, self-deprecating train journey. Sean O'Brien is the kind of poet I don't find often enough in contemporary poetry - really technically assured in a classic way, but also thought-provoking and funny at the same time. You can read the poem 'The Beautiful Librarians' here.

Dan O'Brien, New Life (CB Editions). This collection is a sequel to the 2013 collection War Reporter, and my only caveat is that you should probably read War Reporter first and then New Life - but do read both. New Life carries on Dan O'Brien's unusual collaboration with the war correspondent Paul Watson. This poetry blurs the lines between non-fiction and poetry - it's a dizzying film-reel of the poet's thoughts, the war reporter's thoughts, emails and phone calls, and the nagging sense that the poet and the war reporter are not only two different people, but also aspects of the same person. War Reporter started with the terrible consequences of Paul Watson's photo of the dead American soldier in Mogadishu in 1993, and ricocheted through many other countries and wars. New Life spends time in Syria and the other countries affected by the Arab Spring, but it also explores O'Brien's personal life, Watson's view of the discovery of Franklin's ship Terror in the Canadian Arctic, and many other stories. New Life, like War Reporter, is often graphic and a difficult read, but I found both collections extraordinarily powerful and quite unique in contemporary poetry. New Life is probably my pick for collection of the year. You can read the poem 'The War Reporter Paul Watson and the Room Across the Hall' here, again on And Other Poems.

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