The 3 best poetry books published in 2009…

I was recently asked by Michelle McGrane, who blogs over at Peony Moon, if I would share with her readers my three favourite poetry books published in 2009. Michelle has compiled quite a list — it spreads out over an epic eight blog posts — writers from all walks of life give their picks and recommendations from the past 12 months, and it’s a great way to compile a ‘to-read’ list as well as get an insight into what everyone’s been reading! I thought I’d also share my three choices with you guys too, and give you a bit of background info on why I picked them.

#3: Cover Story by Dave Coates
I was anxious to get some small press publications in my list, and they don’t come much smaller than Forest Publications. Run out of Edinburgh’s fabulous free-access arts collective The Forest, ForPub (as it is affectionately known) is volunteer-run and not-for-profit, but produces some truly amazing little books, not only of poetry but of prose and essays too. Although they’re small, they take huge pride in what they do — their chapbooks in particular are little works of art, featuring fabulous illustrations on ingeniously layered acetate covers. Priced at £2 each, these little gems are well worth picking up!
As for Dave… perhaps I am a bit biased, as he’s a Read This Magazine editor and one of my fellow MSc classmates, but I genuinely think his work deserves to make my list in spite of that. He’s a poet who really revels in sound, connotation and colour, and who strives to put a new spin on familiar tropes like “memory poems”, and in particular, the good old “bird poem.” Dave is starting to make a bit of a name for himself in the Edinburgh literary scene, and I hope that’s going to continue… if this chapbook is anything to go by, he more than deserves the attention!

#2: Dances With Vowels: New and Selected Poems by Kevin Cadwallender
Again, maybe I am a tad biased because Kevin is my editor, but he’s also one of the best performance poets of his generation, and I do not exaggerate! Kevin’s published many, many collections over his long poetic career, but this is his first from the lovely Smokestack Press, and it’s like a Greatest Hits album, gathering together the sparkliest poetic gems from all those previous publications and putting them all in one place, along with some brilliant new material for good measure. There’s nothing to match hearing Kevin reading his poems live, but reading this book comes a close second — favourite picks are the hilarious “Colouring In Guernica”, and the title poem “Dances With Vowels”, an idea so brilliant I desperately wish I’d thought of it first. This is a fairly hefty book full of great stuff, so definitely worth parting with your pennies for.

#1: Nothing Unrequited Here by Heather Bell
Those of you who’ve been with One Night Stanzas a while won’t be surprised to see this book at the top spot — Ms Bell’s name is regularly dropped here, and for good reason. This book is absolutely exquisite, and not just because it’s full of explosive, emotive and highly original poetry. It was hand-made by the truly brilliant Amanda Oaks, founder of Verve Bath Press, and is just one of many utterly gorgeous artisan chapbooks carefully crafted under Amanda’s watchful eye. Since publishing this volume, Heather has found huge success, too — her work has been published in Rattle, The Columbia Review and Grasslimb this year, and she was recently awarded the 2009 New Letters Poetry Prize. All of this is totally deserved — for me, she’s the new Sharon Olds, only better. Do I exaggerate? Buy the book and see for yourselves.

Others that nearly made the list…

Riddled With Errors by McGuire Pure distilled Glaswegian McGuire: “untamed poetry, bizzare stories, jaw dropping honesty, and dark science.”

How To Make People Love You by Heather Bell Heather’s self-published volume from early 2009, now unsurprisingly sold out.

The Ambulance Box by Andy Philip A brilliant and highly original debut collection.

Only this room by Kerry Hardie I only recently discovered Kerry Hardie, but I am very glad I did — her poems are truly stunning, and she’s become one of my all-time favourite poets.

Who’d make your 2009 Top 3?

(Photo by incidental music)

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8 Responses to “The 3 best poetry books published in 2009…”

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  2. Michelle Says:

    Claire, thanks so much for your choices and these great descriptions.

  3. Col Says:

    Here’s a couple:

    ‘West End Final’ by Hugo Williams. I really enjoyed this collection. Particularly a 12 poem sequence ‘A Pillow book’ describing the relations of a long married couple.

    Collected Poems of Ian Hamilton. This short life work, is a wonderful thing. Though only about 80 poems long, each is boiled down to the pure essence of poetry. And indeed with copious notes for each and every poem. Highly recommended reading.

  4. H. Says:

    Aw thank you! I missed this (just got my internet back!)

  5. H. Says:

    Oh and HTMPLY … I have like 5 or so copies left, I just have everything terribly still packed up since I moved, so I took it off Paypal (but if people send me e-mails or notes or whatever, I can arrange it mailed).

    Oh and I haven’t bought a book of poetry in awhile. I SUCK. I will have to buy myself some books from this list for XMAS.

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  8. program Says:

    Thanks for post \o/