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Poetry to Look Forward to in 2021 (January – May)

Living Weapon by Rowan Ricardo Phillips

Published: 21st Jan '21
Paperback / softback
£10.99

Living Weapon opens with the enormous wings of an angelic being, signalling the historical and political scope of the lyric to follow. Across their intertextual nods to Homer, Orpheus, Icarus, and Eliot (to name a few), Phillips’s poems unfurl with self-reflexive questioning related to his identity as a Black poet: What is poetry in an age of police brutality? Of systemic racism? Of constant surveillance? The result is a moving,
interrogative ode to Phillip’s own relationship to writing against a backdrop of erasures and violences.

the lost tongue of the poets / That went This was our planet, a past tense, / Some dot gerrymandered into fire.” (‘Nude Figure’)

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Comic Timing by Holly Pester

Published: 4th Feb '21
Paperback / softback
£10.99

One of our most highly-anticipated debuts of 2021, Holly Pester’s Comic Timing is a radical romp through the dailiness of life. Feminist politics of work, sex, intimacy, and embodiment are of particular concern in this collection, all rendered in a fragmentary syntax that is ludic and elusive in equal measure. Indeed, for all its absurd temporalities, this book could not be coming to us at a better time.

“They were affectionate where they met to discuss / the avant-garde rules to suffering” (‘Eccentric Attire’)

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Toxicon & Arachne by Joyelle McSweeney

Published: 4th Feb '21
Paperback / softback
£10.99

A lost child. A crown of sonnets. Grief, love, and their relentless contaminations. It is hard to know where to begin when describing McSweeney’s virtuosic poems, which feel closer to accumulation or festering or leakage. But suffice it to say that it’s impossible to walk away unchanged from McSweeney’s roiling, toxic underworlds – uncanny as they are to encounter in this grief-stricken Covid era.

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Writing the Camp by Yousif M. Qasmiyeh

Published: 28th Feb '21
Paperback / softback
£10.99

From award-winning indie publisher Broken Sleep Books, Writing the Camp deftly resurrects the emotional and physical landscapes of the Badawwi refugee camp in Lebanon, drawing from Qasmiyeh’s own experiences. This is a book of precise and crystalline imagery, where crucial questions related to exile, place, and personhood converge and haunt to devastating effect.

“The refugee is the revenant of the face.” (‘In arrival, feet flutter like dying birds’)

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Stone Age, The by Jen Hadfield

Published: 18th Mar '21
Paperback / softback
£10.99

In The Stone Age, readers will encounter a marriage of the prominent themes that have long characterised Jen Hadfield’s bewitching eco-poetics. Neurodiversity is the main portal here through which Hadfield’s incantatory lyric – rooted firmly in Shetland’s ancient geographies – ventures into the varied consciousness of all living things. A hypnotic read with prophetic undercurrents.

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War of the Beasts and the Animals by Maria Stepanova, Sasha Dugdale

Published: 25th Mar '21
Paperback / softback
£12.00

It’s a great year to be a devotee of Maria Stepanova. Following on the heels of her nonfiction work In Memory of Memory (published in February), this poetry book will be Stepanova’s first full-length collection in English, translated with exemplary care from Russian by Sasha Dugdale. With its sweeping historical scope, folkloric reimaginings, and linguistic playfulness, this collection could be a rich companion piece to read alongside In Memory of Memory – though it nevertheless stands well enough on its own as a work of revolutionary poetics.

“Look, the spirits have gathered at your bedside / Speaking in Lethean tongues / Hush-a-bye, so flesh and fine, / For what do you long?” (‘War of the Beasts and the Animals’)

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bird of winter by Alice Hiller

Published: 19th Apr '21
Paperback / softback
£9.99

A difficult subject matter – namely, the childhood abuse Hiller experienced – is mediated with an adroit hand in this arresting debut collection. Here, Hiller returns to ancient sites of overwhelming violence and excavation – such as Pompeii and Herculaneum – to invoke, obliquely, her own traumatic past and thus expel its obliterating unspeakability. A dark yet resolute poetics of memory and witness.

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Blood Condition, A by Kayo Chingonyi

Published: 22nd Apr '21
Paperback / softback
£10.00

This follow-up collection to Chingonyi’s award-winning Kumukanda promises to be a brilliant portrait of grief, joy, and human contingency. Known for elegant poetic alchemies that blend history, pop culture, high lyric, and the idiomatic, Chingonyi is a trusted guide to the psychic fields of all that a body inherits, making A Blood Condition a publication to watch.

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God at the Door, A by Tishani Doshi

Published: 22nd Apr '21
Paperback / softback
£10.99

“We are homesick everywhere,” Tishani Doshi writes in her sophomore collection A God at the Door, “even when we’re home we are empty things / that need filling.” These lines are emblematic of some of the tensions at work in this marvellous collection, in which belonging and dislocation, hunger and satiety, familiarity and strangeness attune readers even more closely to Doshi’s dazzling poetics of bewilderment.

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pandemonium by Andrew McMillan

Published: 20th May '21
Paperback / softback
£10.00

There are few contemporary UK poets who evoke the intricacies of being-ness and gay love as richly as Andrew McMillan. In his signature low-caps aesthetic, this new book builds on his previous explorations of the body as a locus of yearning, limitation, and pleasure to traverse more hidden territories where the physical and mental meet. If you’re searching for poetry that attends to mental health and illness with complexity and tenderness, this is the right book for you. 

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