The best recent poetry – review summary | Poetry

36 ways From writing a Vietnamese poem by Nam Le
Winner of the Dylan Thomas Prize for his short story collection, The Boat, Nam Le’s debut poetry collection focuses on themes of anti-Asian racism, the aftereffects of war trauma, Vietnamese diasporic identity, and marginalization from multiple perspectives. Constructed like a book of poems, the 37 works here, each named after a type of violence or mode of intellectual inquiry, interrogate the complexities of intergenerational trauma, the challenges of assimilation into Western society, and the effects of cultural imperialism. Both personal and political, these incendiary poems constitute a searing indictment of historical, cultural, linguistic and racial violence. “Your blood contains it. / What happened to them – / Your parents, theirs, all their loved ones.” One of the most powerful and memorable debuts I’ve read in recent years.

Three births by K Patrick (Purse, £12.99)
This artful and sensual debut novel from one of Britain’s best young novelists Granta explores the fluidity of the body, queer love and desire. There is a refreshing carefreeness to K Patrick’s writing, such as in the opening poem, Pickup-Truck Sex, where the speaker confesses: “The ability to be both bodies is my fantasy.” Do you think that’s arrogant? The poems celebrate fleeting moments of joy – “When I’m alive, it’s / extraordinary” – as well as melancholy: “it feels good to be obvious after years / of misery, of mystery, of misery, of mystery “. At times the writing is reminiscent of a Woolfian stream of consciousness in its cerebral interaction with objects, people, places, nature and celebrities such as George Michael, Daniel Craig and Kylie. Patrick is not afraid of the vicissitudes of emotion, igniting the atmosphere in a manic irony that is at once desperate, poignant and visceral: “I am an authoritarian little son of God… Father, father, father, I will always go one step / further… do you appreciate the absolute beauty of my life…?

After you were, I Am by Camille Ralphs (Faber, £12.99)
From the beginning of After You Were, I Am, the reader embarks on an astonishing adventure, as Camille Ralphs weaves intellectual vivacity throughout this three-part vessel. The journey begins with George Herbert (godson of John Donne), and we sojourn through a metaphysical reimagining of the Book of Common Prayer, then navigate as Ralphs gives new voice to the men and women persecuted during the Pendle witch trials in 1612, finally. we head to the pirate port of Elizabethan occultist John Dee. There is a strange, simmering steampunk depth to Ralphs’ poetry. The writing is grounded in a kind of earthly empathy for “the workers of this world,” as well as for historical figures, but also effortlessly straddles the spiritual and the fantastical. It is a poetry that delights in etymology and alchemical wordplay. “In the beginning, it was you, Word. I am new.

Bad standard by Anne Carson (Jonathan Cape, £14.99)
Described by the author as “a collection of writings on different things, such as Joseph Conrad, Guantánamo, Flaubert, snow, poverty, Roget’s Thesaurus, my father, Saturday evening”, Carson’s latest work shows his brilliance and its originality through a series of hybrid works, fluid texts interspersed with images and digressions. Throughout, these prose poems demonstrate clarity, precision, and attention, juxtaposing classical myth with reflections on the contemporary world and the nature of individuality, the “burden of being a subject in the making, regardless who we are “. Each vignette conveys a sense of surprise and freedom, as in the opening piece 1=1: “a flash of pure vitality like stepping into water / a calm morning with the world empty in all directions towards the sky.” This first entry. Crossing the border of consciousness and consciousness, towards what?

Poems 1968-2020 by Nikki Giovanni (Penguin, £12.99)
This is a generous and comprehensive selection from one of the greatest poets of the black arts movement of the late 1960s. Nikki Giovanni’s early work here is fiery, provocative and polemical, with poems such as Black Power (For All the Beautiful Black Panthers East), Reflections on April 4, 1968, and The Funeral of Martin Luther King, Jr. This activism continues today. day, as seen in Black Lives Matter (Not a Hashtag). Her poetry centers on race, gender and sexuality in the black experience, black love, struggle and joy. Reading his work is like having an intimate conversation with a trusted friend. These are warm and accessible poems that celebrate, move and inspire, while denouncing racial injustices (“if they take my life / it won’t stop / the revolution”). As she concludes: “the words and the stars / and the music are all that matters.”

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