18 July 2019

John's Favourite Poetry Pamphlets of 2019 so far

Posted by John Clegg

It's absolutely terrifying that we're already halfway through 2019. Here are my favourite poetry pamphlets I've read this year.

Nobody Represents Me (Clinic)
Zeyar Lynn, trans. Zeyar Lynn, Ko Ko Thett and Vicky Bowman

I first read Zeyar Lynn's poetry in the 2012 anthology of Burmese poetry Bones Will Crow - it's a pleasure to be able to dive deeper. I read these lines from 'Tears of My Own' as a description of Lynn's poetic practice: 'shall I throw the dice on the verge of death, just shy of falling like a leaf, / pretending to wind-surf...?' These are poems with all the twisty unstable motion of a falling leaf or a decoy windsurfer.

Spikenard (Smith | Doorstop)
Yvonne Reddick

One of the Laureate's Choice pamphlets selected by Carol Ann Duffy. Dark, firey poems of nature and desire, including the harrowing pantoum 'The Bait', and a completely successful translation from that impossible-to-translate poet Philippe Jaccottet.

Hamburger in the Archive (If a Leaf Falls Press)
Jen Calleja

Arising from Calleja's work on the papers of poet and translator Michael Hamburger, this is a joyous and silly pamphlet which plays with the exigencies and discoveries of archival work. The picture of Hamburger recreated from out-of-context snippets and pedantic notes and letter fragments is entirely believable and strangely loveable.

That's Not a Fishing Boat, It's a Giraffe: Responses to Austerity (Smith | Doorstop)
Ian McMillan

McMillan evokes a particular political mood as well as anyone I can imagine, even in poems like 'Steam is Ghost Ice', which seem on the surface to be without any political context at all. Responding not just to austerity but Brexit, xenophobia and the fragmentation of the UK politics down lines of age and education, these are powerful, sorrowful poems of resistance.

The Other Side of Nowhere (Rough Trade Editions)
André Naffis-Sahely

This is incredible. Reading Naffis-Sahely makes everything else for a little while seem insubstantial - these are poems of the American West and they all have the hard clear streaming outline of a figure crossing a ridge in high sunlight. 'Roadrunners' is my favourite poem I've read this year. Like Kris Kristofferson, from whom he draws his title, Naffis-Sahely goes from strength to strength, getting by, getting high, and staying strange.

Fighters, Losers (New Walk Editions)
Declan Ryan

I have no idea how Ryan does it - nine poems about boxers, the narratives deliberately prosaic or anti-lyrical, and when they switch to reported speech the poetry breaks in like daylight. The whole thing is strongly recommended, particularly 'Thunder' and 'Jonathan Rendall'.

Endland (Face Press / Sad Press)
Caitlín Doherty

Can't think of anyone else who sounds much like this. 'obrigada friend who posts the internationale / on my timeline / pasta peas and pesto rosso / stand up to chew / and be chosen'. Minutiae, broken connections, melancholy exuberance.

Curfuffle (The Lifeboat)
Scott McKendry

Utter joy, I promise you'll like this but I don't want to spoil the surprise. Just you wait.