It’s more than a year since the publication of Dear World & Everyone In It: New Poetry in the UK, from Bloodaxe, edited by Nathan Hamilton.  Which already makes this a not-review, inasmuch as review culture doesn’t so much review as view, the hook is the new – that’s the thing with the new, people have a thing for it.  Poetry is at an odd place in this, a historical layering. I’m put in mind of Pound, ‘literature is news that stays news’, for an (as ever) emphatic statement that both highlights and covers over the cracks I’m talking about. Likewise Pound’s historical method.

I really like Hamilton’s introduction and his method – an eclecticism across ‘more clearly referential’ and ‘linguistically innovative’ poets, and a mix of crowd-sourcing and judgement, though I wonder if asking people to nominate others who ought to be in an anthology doesn’t raise the question of how social misfits make their way, and merely replicate the blurb culture of the mainstream.

A book like this is calculated to excite my envy, inasmuch as here everyone is younger than me, considerably younger in some cases, and so much further along, so much more productive.  Resentment too, not at the poets or even the editor, but at the seemingly inevitable conflation of the new with the young, sweet-talk in the arc of potential.  The industry will have come of age when an anthology of new work by newly emergent poets over the age of 40, who have (cabin’d, cribb’d, confin’d, bound in by the depredation of years, of roads not taken, of ordinary jobs, of courage unfound) sketched, skittered, hobbled through creative writing classes and confidence re-won hard-won, to re-find and re-found writing, not only comes out, but sells just as well (or badly).  And yet, and yet…do we want to reify the new? isn’t that the commodification so decried by many of the poets here creeping in through the back door, because of our own and the media’s fascination with ‘the next thing’?

In similar vein I also take issue with Hamilton’s decision – because age was the real limiting criteria – to exclude what he calls new (aka young) poets writing in old ways.  The linguistically innovative end of the spectrum is covered well. The more ‘mainstream’ participants tend to the funky re-puposing of popular culture, except perhaps for Ahren Warner who seems to be doing something more interesting and complex. I would have liked to see some hardcore traditional craftspersons to be able to really compare and contrast.

There’s a lot of good work here, but my most immediate and delighted response was to the work of Amy Evans. Her close sensitivity to the turns of language in ‘Collecting Shells’ is a revelation.  It’s an attention to the shells that are language, the sounding of the sea of language in the (empty) shell, the sloughing off of the snake-skin in palimpsestic layering of existing phrases and their (de)grade A (neg)ations, the various constructions we can place and space.  It is also close enough to the questions of the person, the self and not-self, that I can actually care about it too, rather than just admire the handiwork:

This, my a(r)mour:

an accretion

of misguarded splendours

rendered silent  :text

/ure.  Touch ing perhaps,  when

surface

only sufficed, but grown

harder : still

to that touch.  Such

creaturing    :     I