Written by Hazel Burke


Could Be Verse

Fancy getting stuck into a sonnet or cosy with a canzone but no idea where to start? This month, our poetry doctor* Hazel Burke’s been busy writing her Christmas poetry wishlist. *She’s not a real doctor.

Emily Dickinson illustration by Louise Boulter.

Emily Dickinson illustration by Louise Boulter.

Penguin Modern Poets 1

A lovely new series of pocketable poetry threesomes. I love this Emily Berry/Anne Carson/Sophie Collins combo. I’m also looking forward to the next volume, which is going to feature Malika Booker/Sharon Olds/Warsan Shire (out in January 2017 though, so not the best option for a Christmas present…).

A Poem for Every Night of the Year (edited by Allie Esiri)

Esiri has clearly thought long and hard to find a wide variety of poems that would appeal to children. There are some poems written for children by Michael Rosen, Roald Dahl and Lewis Carroll. But there are also picks from Maya Angelou, e e cummings, Carol Ann Duffy, George the Poet, Sappho and Imtiaz Dharker. This looks like a strong collection that doesn’t talk down to children.

Joyriding the Storm by Vanessa Kisuule

If you’re considering yet another Boots threefer for the girls or younger laydeez in your life, how about swapping it for a brilliant little book of funny, clever and inventive poetry?

Float by Anne Carson

You should never judge a book by its transparent slipcase housing 22 achingly arty mini books designed to be read as a shufflable collection. But I’ve read a few reviews of the latest offering from Anne Carson and they all focus on the gorgeous production. As it’s (reverential pause)… Anne Carson, it’s probably safe to say that the actual writing is up to scratch.

You Took the Last Bus Home by Brian Bilston

The first collection from the person who might just be the best thing on Twitter. As you would expect, a lot of these are short and sweet. Always reminds me of John Hegley, which is a good thing in my book. And I’d buy the book purely as a thank you for his brilliant Refugees poem.

Nobody Told Me by Hollie McNish

If you know anybody who is a new, or newish, parent (especially mothers) this book about McNish’s experience of being a perfectly imperfect parent would be especially good. It’s a big book but it’s one you can dip into: part diary, part poetry, all brilliant. Touching but not wimpy.

The Verandah Poems by Jean ‘Binta’ Breeze

Escape from the wintry weather to a verandah in the Jamaican countryside with these beautiful stories of life and lives, family and friends, and how the world works.

Tickets to a spoken word event/poetry reading

Some events are a bit more like listening in on a chat and a bit of poetry reading and others are a bit more like poetry stand-up. You’ll find what you like.

I’d recommend Jackie Kay because she’s hilarious and I’d pay the ticket price to hear her gorgeous laugh (but, er, the actual poems are pretty good too). Salena Godden is Queen of the Spoken Word and appears to spend more time doing poetry gigs than I spend sleeping. Luke Wright is touring a new show, The Toll, from next year. Catch Kate Tempest’s Let Them Eat Chaos tour. Or you could get your Vanessa Kisuule or Hollie McNish fix in person rather than print.

Charity shop lucky dip

It might sound a bit unusual to buy Christmas presents secondhand, but bear with me. Some folk like presents big, shiny and NEW and this won’t work for them. But if you are looking for the perfect present for somebody who ‘can’t think of anything they need/want’ or who is a tiny bit sickened by the rampant consumerism of it all, then why not try this?

Have a quick browse of the poetry books in your local charity shops and pick a book that you think your friend might like. If they love the poems, great. If not, then they know that their gift has already spread a bit of Christmas joy by benefiting a charity, and they can spread a little more joy by donating it to another charity shop, and in the process avoid keeping unwanted presents out a feeling of guilt.

Some people will find this idea AWFUL, in which case, get something from the rest of the list. Me, I think it might be the present that best captures the Christmas spirit.

If in doubt…

Wendy Cope.

Read all of Hazel’s previous poetry columns here.


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Written by Hazel Burke

Hazel likes seed catalogues, maps and toast. She lives in Manchester. @oxpecking