Last week I wrote an article explaining the concept of Pop-Poetry, and the idea that some poetry is much more accessible than is widely accepted in modern day culture. I bring to you now, five recommendations of poetry collections that I feel, if given a chance, are relatable to almost anyone. These collections focus on life, love and growing up, and, therefore all contain explicit echoes of the real human lives that we all lead. I can promise that everyone can find a part of themselves between the pages of at least one of these books.
Kid – Simon Armitage
Nostalgic and remembering, Armitage explores the themes of maturity and coming of age in this collection. I first came across it at school while studying for my GCSE in English Literature. We were shown the poem that gives the collection it’s title – ‘Kid’ – and asked to analyse it before our exam. It was punchy, hilarious and laden with the truth of maturing enough to realise that you are too smart to merely follow others around. This collection will prompt smiles, frowns and even discomfort from the reader, as Armitage writes with utmost truth and honesty. A truly brilliant collection which remains to be one of my favourites.
Rapture – Carol Ann Duffy
A collection which is as beautiful as it is devastating. Rapture follows the course of an affair, exposing all the complex and heart wrenching emotions that come with it. I picked this up under the guidance of a review I had read on the internet and I was not disappointed. It is difficult to read in places, but ultimately speaks with such honesty and beauty that you’ll find you won’t be able to put it down. I’d recommend reading it in one sitting, like a short story, to get the full effect from narrative that translates throughout.
Clever Backbone – John Agard
Those of you who read my last article will know that I am a strong advocate of this collection. Agard’s modern epic tells the tale of mankind, and how we came to believe ourselves superior to animals. While this sounds a little dry, I can promise that his witty and tongue-in-cheek observations will have you smiling and nodding in agreement until the final page.
Rain – Don Paterson
The great thing about this collection for a new reader of poetry is its inner diversity. Paterson includes short, quirky poems alongside longer and more in-depth pieces. The collection does not have a narrative as some of the others I have described which makes it good for a quick, pick-up-put-down, read when you have a spare five minutes. The poems are also endlessly interesting, with many layers of meaning. The poem that lends its name to the title, for example, is one of the most beautiful poetic expressions I have ever read.
Ariel – Sylvia Plath
‘Ariel’ was completed shortly before Plath’s death by suicide in 1963 and the poetry in this collection therefore heavily echoes her mental state at this time. This collection is, again, another difficult read, but there is touching expression and honesty in her words that rarely fail to leave a lasting impression on the reader, explaining why she is hailed as one of the great poetic voices. ‘Poppies in July’ in particular is another of my favourite poems.