It’s the 1st of May, the back garden is no longer a mythical frozen wasteland but a potential spring sunshine hangout after an adventurous morning of spring cleaning.
I almost sweat with trepidation as I declare (at long last!) Spring is here!
The present climate in England should be taken seriously. Any opportunity to lounge in the garden with a good book and a cold glass of value range Lime Cordial should be snapped up without hesitation.
The fact that it’s the 1st of May also means that April the UK’s month dedicated to poetry is over. To this end, the following is a shortlist of 5 fantastic pieces of poetic literature to both stimulate and soothe during those lazy weekend afternoons.
1) Red: Contemporary Black British Poetry: There is perhaps no better place to start than this powerful anthology of black British poetry published by Peepal Tree Press. Edited by Kwame Dawes, the anthology features his own work and the writings of his esteemed peers in the shape and form of Linton Kwesi Johnson, Patience Agbabi, Kadija Sesay, Nii Ayikwei Parkes and Bernadine Evaristo MBE amongst others. The title of the anthology concerns the overriding theme of the works featured, the word ‘Red’. The result is a powerful book of poets engaging with immediate associations such as blood, violence, passion etc…as well as alternative and surprising connotations such as sensuality, memory, the colour of skin and the mood of a song.
2) Ten: New Poets from Spread the Word [Paperback]: Authored and edited by the revered Bernadine Evaristo MBE, this collection of poems is also co-edited by Daljit Nagra. The apparent aim of the book (published in 2010) was to raise the profile of talented black and Asian writers. The anthology is therefore an end-product of an initiative by literature development agency ‘Spread the Word’ and readers are in for a treat as these eclectic and diverse writings span from the streets of London, the killing fields of Bangladesh and the cane fields of the Caribbean. Ten’s new poets include Mir Mahfuz Ali, Roger Robinson, Malika Booker, Denise Saul, Shazea Quraishi and Janet Kofi Tsekpo.
3) The Fat Black Woman’s Poems (Virago Poets) [Paperback]: The emotive title of Grace Nichols’ poetry collection evokes, in itself, three immense social stereotypes: being fat, being black, and being a woman. However, such definitions remain controversial insofar as her poems constitute an overt attempt to challenge conventional definitions of black women, as well as to re-evaluate and redefine black female identities in refreshingly new, creative and unexpected ways.
4) Morning Breaks in the Elevator [Paperback]: Writing about love, hate, politics and the banal situations of everyday life, Lemn Sissay produced a stunning collection of poems back in 2000. The collection offers readers a unique encounter with passionate prose, satirical observations and a poetic genius. Sissay’s lyrical definition of love ‘Invisible Kisses’ will likely have you waxing lyrical. This is a book where words have been skilfully selected by a master wordsmith and the result is an excellent paperback rich in atmosphere.
5) Too Black, Too Strong [Paperback]: Benjamin Zephaniah’s seminal third collection from Bloodaxe was published in 2001. The acclaimed writer who perhaps still best-known for his performance poetry concentrated on the struggles of black Britain arguably more directly than all his previous books featuring such poems as ‘Kill Them Before Ramadan’. Zephaniah certainly ups the ante, writing out of a sense of disillusionment and urgency as well as a commitment to social justice. He opens this hard-hitting and dark humoured collection of poems with a stirring announcement on where he’s coming from, setting his poetry against the political landscape of millennial Britain.