Tuesday 27 December 2016

Back to Writing (finally)

It's always interesting to me how time off from teaching and the internet can start me writing again. Throw in a good poetry book or two and I am well away. After a worryingly dry spell that has lasted a good couple of months, just the odd poem here and there, I have written twenty two pages over the last three days. I put this down, in part, to the influence of Melissa Lee-Houghton's book Sunshine, which I received as a Christmas present. I had been looking forward to reading Houghton's latest collection as I really loved her last book Beautiful Girls. Houghton taps into some of the same themes that come up from my own past - although her past is even bleaker and darker, but somehow (like reading Sharon Olds and Pascale Petit) reading these poems gives me a kind of permission to return and explore some of the darker aspects of my own past. Of course it's not just the themes - I have to find the writing style exciting too and I do find Lee-Houghton's use of language both exciting and inspiring.

I am not largely (well I don't think I am) a confessional poet - although when I first started taking poetry writing seriously I did err towards writing in that style. In fact I wrote largely in a confessional style until mid way through my MA when my style started changing and evolving - it wasn't that I stopped writing about that stuff completely, but I felt less need to tackle those themes head on. A lot of the poems in my collection Bird Sisters, for instance, do touch on family tension and difficult (mostly familial) relationships, but they deal with them either in a fictional or a metaphorical way - for example in one sequence the narrator's sister is an owl.

These new poems that I have been writing are more in the style of my poem Friday Night King's Head, which was published on Proletarian Poetry earlier this year. Friday Night King's Head is from a sequence of stream of consciousness style prose poems that I have been writing occasionally over the last couple of years. The poems are dense and prosey - and usually explore one event or incident (Friday Night King's Head is about one Friday night in my old local). Sometimes the poems jump from one theme to another echoing the way memory and thought works, and sometimes they explore one subject more deeply - for example one of the poems is a list of things that as a child/teen the narrator was told not to do, each sentence starting with the word don't. The poem offers a slow revealing of the family dynamic - this poem was in part inspired by Lee-Houghton's poem A Good Home, which starts with the words "Don't run on the lawn." (In recognition of this I will put "after Melissa Lee-Houghton in italics below the title - I know there is a technical name for this but I can't think of it right now).

It feels exciting to be writing again after such a dry spell. It makes me realise how writing makes me feel happier and more fulfilled. I know I have been doing things that have been detrimental to my creativity - printing out all the Cafe Writers competition poems for example and i also wrote cover endorsements for a couple of books which takes concentration and close reading. I just hope that now I am back in the saddle that I can keep this writing momentum up.

Monday 5 September 2016

Some more waffly thoughts on subject matter in poems

When we are editing a poem one of the things we have to think about is the subject matter. Some subject matter is unique or unusual – which can be a good thing because it will immediately make the reader more interested – I am thinking here of poems like Jo Shapcott’s poems Piss Flower or Scorpion (which starts “I kill it because…”). Titles or opening lines like this will immediately grab the reader’s attention – but of course the rest of the poem then has to live up to this arresting start.

Subject matter can also be the bane of a poem. It might be too anecdotal (I have talked about this before here) and needs to have something that lifts it above and beyond the anecdote itself – some kind of insight (though not too obvious or cheesy), or something unexplained or unexpected might take place. Or it may be that your subject matter is something that has been written about many times before (how many poems have you read about cats, dogs, death, the moon, mothers, childbirth, etc.?). The question then is whether your poem is doing anything different to all the other poems on the subject – or is it just another poem saying how beautiful the moon is – if the latter then it is probably best to put that poem aside and move on. That isn’t to say that we should never write about these subjects (although there are people who would tell you otherwise). But you might find that you have to write quite a few poems about the moon or a dog or whatever before you hit an idea that will stand up to proper critical scrutiny. I decided that I wanted to reclaim the moon a year or two ago – after many poets and poetry teachers had told me it was a subject best avoided. I decided to tackle it during NaPoWriMo (National poetry writing month). I wrote about six different moon poems in all ranging from pretty trite to almost but not quite OK, and then when I had all but given up on the idea my moon poem came – I am not saying it’s a brilliant poem but it’s certainly not like any other moon poem I have read.

Of course the other thing to bear in mind when you are writing about something like the moon (as well as all the poems that have gone before) is the weight of common knowledge about your subject. The science, the mythology, the religious connotations – even if none of this stuff makes it into your poem, it is there at your shoulder and you should be aware of it, it should inform your writing, even if only on a subconscious level. But one needs to beware too, of this knowledge. As a teacher I see many poems that are over-burdened with facts: poems written by eager students who are keen to squeeze in every interesting thing they know about their subject matter. There is no need to squeeze everything you know into one poem, however interesting it is, save some facts for other poems you might write later, or if you feel you have to get all those juicy facts in then perhaps you should write an essay. Personally I don’t read poetry to learn about a subject – although sometimes I do learn something – I read a poem to be moved, to feel connected, to learn something about the world that I already knew but perhaps couldn’t articulate, to be excited by concepts or language or form, to connect with what makes us/me human, to feel like I have accidentally stumbled on home.

Further reading and links on the subject:

Tuesday 23 August 2016

What makes a good poem (or not) - one of those rambling blog posts that ends up miles from where it started.

Today I have been sending out rejections for Lighthouse - it makes me feel a bit like the big, bad wolf. Actually it is worse than that because I suspect he liked being bad. I, on the other hand, feel guilty. Especially when rejecting a poet whose work I like or a poet I know. The editorial meeting this time was a long one - well over three hours. The sifting of the submissions is done before hand so that in the meeting we only discuss the poets who have made it into the maybe folder. We rejected some pretty good poets. I have been thinking as I send out emails about what it is that makes a poem a good poem. What exactly is it that makes a poetry editor sit up and take notice. I think for Lighthouse a poem has to be very strong as there are four, sometimes five, editors to get past. Either we all like a poem or one or more editors has to love it enough to stand up and fight for it. Probably ninety percent or more of what we receive does not fit into this category. I am going to try and quantify what makes a good poem. Of course this is from my own perspective - the other Lighthouse editors may have completely different views.

A good poem should:

  • Not simply be an anecdote or a description  - there are a lot of these kind of poems around. I have a few myself - none of them made it into my book. My mentor took out an anecdotal poem about living in a commune - I liked the poem, it had gone down well at a reading. She said so "so what, it's not telling me anything new." An anecdote is not in itself a bad thing, but the poem needs to be doing something else as well. Esther Morgan once said in a workshop that when you have read a poem "something should have changed, or you should have learnt something." I think this is what Pascal (my mentor) meant - my poem wasn't doing anything other than describing living in a commune. There was no pivotal moment or insight - the thing that makes you remember a poem and go back to it again. Similarly poems that are simply descriptions of something - a place, an art work etc. are rarely doing enough as a poem to make them really interesting and worth coming back to. I sometimes wish when reading this type of poem that the reader had given a little something of themselves to the poem.
  • Not just a list - list poems are interesting. I like them and I sometimes write them, but successful ones are doing something more than simply listing stuff. they are suggesting a back story or making you think about something that is not being overtly stated. A good example of this is "About His Person" by Simon Armitage. The poem lists all the articles found on a dead man (although he never states that anyone is dead), the articles hint at the kind of person he was and the life he lead. List poems can be much more subtle than this too, but they do need that extra something.
  • Be exciting to read - what makes a poem exciting for one person may be different to what does it for another person of course. Some people like rhyme, for some people it's the content. For me it is a mixture of things - the content is important, but so is the use of language - a really good writer can write about the most trivial of things and make it sound exciting. A poem that uses language in exciting ways will make me sit up and take notice. Jen Hadfield was one of the poets who first did this for me - take a look at her poem "XXI The World".
  • Do something different - personally I like poems that come at things aslant. Even the most boring of subjects can be made interesting in the hands of a great writer - "Ironing" by Vicki Feaver does this brilliantly. I also like poems that tackle big topics in new ways - two great examples of this are Amy Newman's "Dear Editor" poems and Toon Tellegen's book Raptors. Raptors is introduced by an unreliable narrator who immediately sets the tone for the rest of the book: "Years ago I invented someone whom I called my father. It was morning, very early, I couldn’t sleep any more, I remember it quite clearly. My father didn’t seem surprised at having suddenly appeared out of nowhere and, in his turn, invented my mother, my brothers and myself." Raptors explores the idea of family dynamics and hierarchies. Tellegen uses the idea of family as a framework and constructs and deconstructs it. He tells us stories, and those stories often conflict with one another. In essence he recreates the complexities of family dynamics and the way that family memories are changed and manipulated, and he does it in a very surreal and exciting way.  Amy Newman's collection Dear Editor also deals with the dynamics of family. Her series of prose poems takes the form of letters to an imaginary literary journal editor - each starts in the same way "Dear Editor, Please consider the enclosed poems for publication. They are from my manuscript X = Pawn Capture..." Each poem uses the game of chess as jumping off point for describing the dynamics and interactions between the narrator's family members. However, the poems are about more than simply chess and family, there is a lot about religion and the saints in the book and also about language itself. It is a clever and fascinating collection.
  • Not be overly poetic - a poem should definitely avoid the purple prose, it should try and avoid 'poetic' words and abstract nouns (shards, shimmery, solitary, longing etc) and it should avoid as much as possible being flowery and pretty - even if it is about something flowery and pretty. Alice Oswald is a master of this, take a look at her poem Narcissus and you will see what I mean. She only uses one (what I would call) poemy word in the entire poem - glittery, but she gets away with it because the rest of the poem is so surprising. As a journal editor I see a lot of overly poetic writing and it does make my heart sink just a little.
  • Have a strong beginning and ending - one of the things that stood out when reading back over my editorial notes yesterday was how often I had written things like - this would be a much better poem with the first/last or first and last stanzas. It is so tempting as a writer to want to spell everything out for your reader in case they don't get it. One of the things I am always telling my students is that they should trust their readers more. George Szirtes once said to me in a tutorial: "jump right into the poem, and step off lightly at the end." I have never forgotten this - it is great advice. Imagine how boring it would be if every film set up the back story before it started properly - of course they don't do that - they jump right into the action and do a slow reveal and usually we work it out.
  • Not be too obscure - of course there is such a thing as being too obscure. Sometimes this comes from over-editing - the writer takes out so much that the original meaning or story is lost. Sometimes writers write something that sounds nice and poetic but falls apart when you try and unpick what the writer is actually trying to say. A lot of writers start off writing this kind of poetry because it approximates what they think poetry should sound like. There is nothing more exciting as a teacher that when a budding poet moves beyond this phase and starts writing in new and more interesting ways. This happens much quicker if the student is reading widely. Reading shows them all the different possibilities and ways of using language. There is conversely deliberately obscure poetry. My son calls this beardy poetry (no offence intended to men who wear beards). What he means is intellectual and academic poetry, which does not do much more than showing off that it is intellectual and academic - the kind of poetry that shouts "look at me, I am so clever and well read." This kind of poetry doesn't really care if you don't get it - it assumes that you must be too stupid or uneducated. Some people like this kind of poetry - I am afraid it turns me off. Don't get me wrong I do like intellectual and clever poetry - but for me it needs to be doing something more. Poetry has to speak to the reader, I think, and that is what makes us go back to it. That doesn't mean it always has to be personal - but a poem that reflects something of the human condition is generally more memorable.
  • Not simply tell a story - though of course there are many great narrative poems - for example Tennyson's "The Lady of Shallot." What I am talking about is poems that feel like a story that has been broken up to look like a poem. One trick as a writer is to ask yourself why you are writing it as a poem and not a story. If you feel like you have to cram every tiny detail into the poem, then perhaps a short story would be a better medium. Similarly if you feel the need to tell a complicated back story. The trick is that less is more. Skip the big build up and jump right in. Traditionally narrative poetry had strict meter and form. These days pretty much anything goes. Keep it simplish and aim to grab your readers attention. The narrative will still have a beginning, middle and end but it may allude to wider concerns, and it may not tell us everything. I like to think of a good story poem as being like an art house film, it is immensely satisfying but leaves some questions unanswered. It will also create a very particular mood or feeling that draws the reader in. Two good examples of this are: "At Roane Head" by Robin Robertson and "The Tyre" by Simon Armitage.
  • Feel true - that doesn't mean they have to be true. I have a sequence of prose poems in my collection that people often think are true - they aren't. I think of a poem as a tiny work of fiction. That doesn't mean that it can't be about something real but one of the most common problems in poetry workshops is people getting hung up on not changing things or leaving things out because the poem is about something real. If you are writing about real events and are attached to the back story and all the details then perhaps you should consider writing it as part of a memoir. I have sometimes written about events and then changed details because they felt better for the poem. Similarly you can use real concrete details as basis for or to flesh out fictional works. For instance in my prose poems I have used concrete details from my own childhood to make the story feel more real and believable. For me what matters is the truth of the poem not the actual truth. I love a poem if it sweeps me up and makes me believe in it. It could be a mythological story or a poem about going to the shops with your grandmother, whatever, just make me believe it. It has to resonate with the reader. I have read countless poems about real (and sometimes sad and dramatic events) that haven't achieved this. Even Sharon Olds - probably America's most famous and current confessional poet has said in interviews that not everything in her poems is true.
  • Not take itself too seriously but not try to be funny - If you had asked me a few years ago I would have told you that I was a 'serious writer'. However, I have come to see that much of my poetry has a dark humour in it. It is not in every poem, and I don't usually set out to write something humorous - if it happens it happens. Poetry that doesn't do it for me is poetry is that tries too hard to be funny, that works at it, or has a clever punchline - those poems are rarely memorable. Similarly poems that take themselves too seriously and are overburdened with portentous description and abstract nouns. You are not Edgar Allan Poe, and he might not have been so big if he was writing today. There is a lot of humour in everyday life and I like poems that reflect this without whacking me in the face with it. Poets that can take a serious subject matter and inject a little humour into it but retain its seriousness. A great example of this is the poem "Somewhat Unravelled" by Jo Shapcott from her award winning collection Of Mutability.
This blog post has grown way bigger than I intended so I am going to stop now. This, of course, is purely my own opinion on what makes good poetry - and because humans are fickle, my opinions might be different next week or next month. It is as much a meditation on poetry for myself as anything else, but if it helps anyone to think about what they are submitting to journals and why, that would be an added bonus. I haven't touched here on ways people submit or whether submitters have actually read the journal to see if their work fits with it. That's a whole other post.

Saturday 16 July 2016

Filling in the Gaps

I have been even more remiss than usual in writing blogposts since April, in part due to May being incredibly busy with the market residency and also because I was launching my poetry collection into the world. Then as soon as the residency was over I went straight into a month of hospital appointments and eye operations - none of which is very good for the soul. It has also meant that my ability to read has been somewhat curtailed and this has had a knock on effect on my writing. I have noticed this link before - if I am not reading then I tend to write a lot less. Julia Cameron calls it filling your artistic well. I am still not reading much as my eyes are not back to normal yet, and I never thought I would say this, but I am looking forward to being able to have an eye test and get new glasses.

I have, however, started writing again. I didn't think that I would write anything about the whole hospital/eye operation experience but suddenly found myself writing about it a few weeks ago. The hospital environment is like an alien world too and looking at things aslant is what we like to do in poetry so it would be hard NOT to write about it, and the jargon of the hospital and of hospital letters and literature is so weird and specific that it was just inviting me to use it in some way. I think there may be more to come on this subject...

Wednesday 20 April 2016

Wenlock, Books and Beyond

I am reading at Much Wenlock Poetry Festival this weekend as part of the Nine Arches Showcase with Abegail Morley and Isobel Dixon. Excited but nervous is probably the description that bests describes how I feel about it. A friend of mine suggested that I blog about the experience, which I may do if I have time.

Having a book out is tremendously exciting but it also makes one feel a little weird - it is after all the culmination of a lot of (years) work, so there is inevitably a feeling of anti-climax and something ending. There is also the realisation, as the book gets nearer to being in my hand, that other people are going to read and judge it. Having a poetry collection is very different to having poems published in journals. If a poem is published in a journal people either like it or they don't like it and move on. With a collection each poem isn't simply judged on its own individual merits - the body of work is looked at as a whole. The poems have to work together, but be different enough to one another to hold the readers attention and not make them bored. There has to be no feeling of padding - poems that are in their as filler - that perhaps aren't doing enough to earn their place. For a first collection there is also some extra pressure - as it is your first foray into the grown up poetry world - people will judge you more on your first collection than on subsequent collections. It is your first and possibly only chance to grab the poetry reader's attention, if a reader thinks your first book is weak they may not ever look at your work again.

I think it is also very important that the first collection feels like a fully realised whole and not the best poems you have written over X many years - a greatest hits almost. This is a trap that I have seen a few first collections fall into. A few strong poems and then the rest feel like filler. I have mixed emotions when I read a book like that - happy to have read some good poems, but tinged with a sadness that it wasn't good all the way through, that the poet didn't have the courage to wait longer (until they had more really strong work) or to put out a pamphlet rather than a full collection. I am hoping that my collection doesn't fall into this category. I feel confident that it doesn't because I waited and didn't publish too soon, and because I had Pascale Petit as a (most excellent) mentor and she threw out quite a lot of the padding and sent me away to write more. Working with a publisher then adds an extra stage of close editing - where poems are tweaked even more, and more poems are thrown out.

Well I will have the book in my hands in a couple of days - and it will be unleashed on the public. I wonder what they will think.

Saturday 23 January 2016

On Writing and Discovery

These outpourings  come both bidden and unbidden, these bidings and bindings, these flows that can only ever be temporarily stemmed.

Writing is a rare thing but is also not/no/never a rare thing.

A rare thing indeed is to make the most perfect sense, as if to draw a sigh from the reader.

Like those blank/dry months of unsatisfying reading, when you suddenly and unexpectedly (after almost having given up all hope of ever being moved by poetry again) come upon something so right and profound that it makes you want to leap up out of your seat. throw the book into the air and shout: Yes that's it, that's exactly it! And then you want to read it again, over and over.

And it might be a mere simple, a distillation of the essence of something: a revelation of the true somethingness of something.

Or it might be a big thing, like the biggest, most exciting, most explosive use of language poem that warps your mind into a shape that it can never fully spring back from, that changes your relationship to the world/word.

And you might read it over and over.

It's a bit like sex in the excitement of that first time - the tentative and not so tentative exploration.

But it's also not like sex, because sex has room to get better and better, but although a mega exciting poem is still mega exciting on the second or fourth or sixteenth reading, you can never better that YES moment, that moment of revelation and discovery.

It must be like being an archaeologist or an explorer or an astronaut even.

That first moon-step is always going to be the one you most remember.

And these moon-steps; what are they but a doorway to another world, another way of thinking. They break the mind wide open like a rock cracked apart to reveal its crystals. They send the writer scuttling sideways for pen and paper.

Thursday 14 January 2016

Voice of the Ridge By C.D. Wright

I was devastated to hear of the death yesterday of my favourite poet C.D. Wright. What a loss to world poetry. My favourite poem of hers is not online so I will post it here as a tribute.

Voice of the Ridge
By C.D. Wright

Something about a hazy afternoon−a long drive
          about cedars spearing the sky
Something about a body at a crossing
          about a dog missing a paw
          about buying a freshly dressed hen
Something about the locus of the dead

Something about a strange town on a weekend
          about large white panties on a line
About a table in a family-owned café
          an old morsel on the tines
Something about the owner dragging one foot
Something about wine from a jelly glass

Something about a hazy afternoon−a long drive
          about no purse no stockings
Something about unfolding the map
          about a cemetery that isn’t kept up
          about grasshoppers−their knack for surprise
Something about finding a full set of clothes in the weed

Something about a hazy afternoon−a long drive
          about hills of goldenrod
Something about filling-station attendants
          the one blue hole in the clouds
Something about birds of prey−the locus of the dead

Something about the long drive home−a slow sundowning
           about the din of insects
Something about straight gold hair on a pillow
Something about writing by the kingly light
           in the quick minutes left before lips
           suction a nipple from wrinkled linen

Books read in 2015

(in reverse order to which I read them)

  1. 1 The Inflectionist Review Anthology of Poetry - John Sibley Williams & A. Molotkov (Editors) (poetry)
  2.     Bunny - Selima Hill (poetry)
  3.    What Every Body is Saying: An Ex-FBI Agent's Guide to Speed-Reading People - Joe Navarro (non fiction)
  4.    The Notebook - Ágota Kristóf (fiction)
  5.    Talking to Ourselves - Andrés Neuman (fiction)
  6.     Jutland - Selima Hill (poetry)
  7.     Mondeo Man - Luke Wright (poetry)
  8.     Red Doc - Anne carson (poetry)
  9.     Beauty/Beauty - Rebecca Perry (poetry)
  10.     Crescendos - Jake Reynolds (poetry)
  11.     Where is My Mask of an Honest Man? by Laura Del-Rivo (fiction, short stories)
  12.     The Fire Station by Sarah Barnsley (poetry)
  13.     That Smell and Notes from Prison - Sonallah Ibrahim (fiction)
  14.     Lazy Thoughts of a Lazy Woman and other poems - Grace Nichols (poetry)
  15.     She Inserts the Key - Marianne Burton (poetry)
  16.     Black Neon - Tony O'Neill (fiction)
  17.     Actual Air - David Berman (poetry)
  18.     Things to Make and Break - May-Lan Tan (fiction, short stories)
  19.     Human Work: A Poet's Cookbook - Sean Borodale (poetry)
  20.     The Age of Wire and String Fictions - Ben Marcus (fiction, short stories)
  21.     Disinformation - Frances Leviston (poetry)
  22.     At the Time of Partition - Moniza Alvi (poetry, re-read)
  23.     Beautiful Girls - Melissa Lee Houghton (poetry, re-read)
  24.     Infinite Difference: Other Poetries by U.K. Women Poets (poetry, re-read)
  25.     House - Myra Connell (poetry)
  26.     Poetry in Practice - Brian Keaney and Bill Lucas (non-fiction)
  27.     The Merchant of Feathers - Tanya Shirley (poetry)
  28.     The Taste of River Water - Cate Kennedy (poetry)
  29.  UEA MA Creative Writing Anthologies 2015: Poetry (poetry)
  30.     Native Guard - Natasha Trethewey (poetry)
  31.     Loop of Jade - Sarah Howe (poetry)
  32.     The Very Best of 52: a poem for every week of the year - Jonathan Davidson (editor) (poetry, re.read)
  33.     Sooner or Later Frank - Jeremy Reed (poetry)
  34.     Blue Movie - Bobby Parker (poetry - re read)
  35.     Dolls - Tom Whelan (poetry)
  36.     Things to Do Before you Leave Town - Ross Sutherland (poetry)
  37.     Some Bright Elegance - Kayo Chingonyi (poetry)
  38.     Circus Apprentice - Katherine Gallagher (poetry)
  39.     Blood Work - Matthew Siegel (poetry)
  40.     The Retrieval System - Maxine Kumin (poetry, re read)
  41.     The Knowledge - Robert Peake (poetry, re-read)
  42.     Sudden Collapses in Public Places - Julia Darling (poetry)
  43.     Shibboleth - Michael Donaghy (poetry)
  44.     Lifting the Piano With One Hand - Gaia Holmes (poetry)
  45.     Making Nice - Matt Sumell (fiction, short stories)
  46.     Wild Gratitude - Edward Hirsch (poetry)
  47.     Trilobites & Other Stories - Breece D'J Pancake (fiction, short stories)
  48.     Citizen: An American Lyric (poetry)
  49.     Kith - Jo Bell (poetry, re read)
  50.     See You in Paradise - J. Robert Lennon (fiction, short stories)
  51.     Eliza and the Bear - Eleanor Rees (poetry)
  52.     Physical - Andrew Macmillan (poetry)
  53.     The Good Dark - Ryan Van Winkle (poetry)
  54.     When God is a Traveller - Arundhathi Subramaniam (poetry)
  55.     School of the Arts - Mark Doty (poetry)
  56.     National Poetry Competition Winners' Anthology 2014 (poetry)
  57.     Accurate Measurements - Adam White (poetry)
  58.     The World Before Snow - Tim Liardet (poetry)
  59.     Kim Kardashian's Marriage - Sam Riviere (poetry)
  60.     The Organ Box - Matt Howard (poetry)
  61.     The Knowledge - Robert Paeake (poetry)
  62.     The Whole & Rain-domed Universe - Colette Bryce (poetry)
  63.     The Very Best of 52: a poem for every week of the year - Jonathan Davidson (editor) (poetry)
  64.     The Next Country - Idra Novey (poetry)
  65.     Happiness - Jack Underwood (poetry)
  66.     The Bluffer's Guide to Poetry - Nick Yapp (non fiction)
  67.     Missing the Eclipse - Joan Hewitt (poetry)
  68.     Beautiful Girls - Melissa Lee-Houghton (poetry)
  69.     Tell Me the Truth About Love - W.H. Auden (poetry)
  70.     My Family and other Superheroes - Jonathan Edwards (poetry)
  71.     Moon Whales - Ted Hughes (poetry)
  72.     Kumkum Malhotra - Preti Taneja (fiction)
  73.     The Hitting Game - Graham Clifford (poetry)
  74.     Corpus - Michael Symmons Roberts (poetry)
  75.     Langoustine: Fragments of a Philosophical Marine Romance - George Szirtes (poetry)
  76.     A Radiance - Bethany W. Pope (poetry)
  77.     Bright Travellers - Fiona Benson (poetry)
  78.     Small Hands - Mona Arshi (poetry)
  79.     Those People - Paul Stephenson (poetry)
  80.     Monkey Grip - Helen Garner (fiction)
  81.     The Zoo Father - Pascale Petiit (poetry - re-read)
  82.     Under the Pier - Selena Godden (poetry)
  83.     The Gold Cell - Sharon Olds (poetry)
  84.     The Summer Son: A Novel - Craig Lancaster (fiction)
  85.     Prayers for the Stolen - Jennifer Clement (fiction)
  86.     You Good Thing - Dara Wier (poetry)
  87.     Indwelling - Gillian Allnutt (poetry)
  88.     Navigation - Jo Bell (poetry)
  89.     Grain - John Glenday (poetry)
  90.     Permission to Breathe - Michael Laskey (poetry)
  91.     The Albertine Workout - Anne Carson (poetry)
  92.     The Collected Works of Billy the Kid - Michael Ondaatje (poetry)
  93.     Skirrid Hill - Owen Sheers (poetry)
  94.     Battleborn - Claire Vaye Watkins (fiction, short stories)
  95.     Between Two Windows - Oli Hazzard (poetry)
  96.     Blue Movie - Bobby Parker (poetry)
  97.     Kith - Jo Bell (poetry)
  98.     The Dead Lake - Hamid Ismailov (fiction, re-read)
  99.     The Chicago Poems - Karl Sandburg (poetry)
  100.     Prester John - John Buchan (fiction)
  101.     The Korean Word For Butterfly - James Zerndt (fiction)
  102.     Hallelujah for 50ft Women by Raving Beauties Hallelujah for 50ft Women: Poems About Women's Relationship to Their Bodies - edited by The Raving Beauties (poetry)
  103.     Duetcetera - Ira Lightman (poetry)
  104.     Gumbeaux - Kimberly Vargas (fiction)
  105.     The Secret Life of Objects - Dawn Raffel (non fiction)
  106.     The Awakening - Kate Chopin (fiction)
  107.     Skelelittle - Ira Lightman (poetry)
  108.     Party - Jackie Wills (poetry)
  109.     One Dead Behind Us - Audre Lorde (poetry)
  110.     The Answer to the Riddle Is Me: A Memoir of Amnesia - David Stuart MacLean (non-fiction)
  111.     The Half-Finished Heaven - Tomas Tranströmer- translated by Robert Bly (poetry)
  112.     Science and Steepleflower - Forrest Gander (poetry)
  113.     Trains of Winnipeg - Clive Holden (poetry)
  114.     Disclaimer - Renee Knight (fiction)
  115.     Fauna - Jacueline Bishop (poetry)
  116.     Ten: The New Wave - edited by Karen McCarthy Woolf (poetry)
  117.     Soon Every House Will have One - Holly Hopkins (poetry)
  118.     The Shared Surface - Jane Monson (poetry)
  119.     What the Living Do - Marie Howe (poetry, re-read)
  120.     Inventory - Linda Black (poetry)
  121.     The Girl On the Train - Paula Hawkins (fiction)
  122.     Touching Distances - Diary Poems - Anne Cluysenaar (poetry)
  123.  Out of Sheer Rage: In the Shadow of D. H. Lawrence - Geoff Dyer (non fiction)
  124.     After This Comes the Food - Sarah Perry (fiction)
  125.     The Red Wardrobe - Sarah Corbett (poetry)
  126.     The Beautiful and Damned - F. Scott Fitzgerald (fiction)
  127.     Stop What You're Doing and Read This! - Various (non fiction)
  128.     Woman's Head as a Jug - Jackie Wills (poetry)
  129.     Odessa - Patricia Kirkpatrick (poetry)
  130.     The Shining Girls - Lauren Beukes (fiction)
  131.     The Lichtenberg Figures - Ben Lerner (poetry)
  132.     How We Became Human: New and Selected Poems 1975-2002 - Joy Harjo (poetry)
  133.     Life in a Box is a Pretty Life - Dawn Lundy Martin (poetry)
  134.     The White Road and Other Stories - Tania Hershman (short stories)
  135.     On Purpose - Nick Laird (poetry)
  136.     Livid among the Ghostings - Anna Percy (poetry)
  137.     My Soul to Take - Yrsa Sigurðardóttir (fiction)
  138.     Into the Darkest Corner - Elizabeth Haynes (fiction)
  139.     Human Remains - Elizabeth Haynes (fiction)
  140.     In the Miso Soup - Ryū Murakami (fiction)
  141.     The Whole Story and Other Stories - Ali Smith (fiction - short stories)
  142.     A Responsibility to Awe: Poems - Rebecca Elson (poetry)
  143.    The Husband's Secret - Liane Moriarty (fiction)
  144.     Snow Calling - Agnieszk Studzinska (poetry)
  145.     Vauxhall - Gabriel Gbadamosi (fiction)
  146.     In the Bee Latitudes - "Annah Sobelman (poetry)
  147.     Slow man - J.M. Coetzee (fiction)
  148.     The Indian Bride - Karin Fossum (fiction)
  149.     The Woods - Harlen Coben (fiction)
  150.     The Farm - Tom Rob Smith (fiction)
  151.     The Three - Sarah Lotz (fiction)
  152.     The Retrieval System - Maxine Kumin (poetry)
  153.     The Barking Thing - Suzanne Batty (poetry)