2013: Reads of the Year – Calum Rodger

Nathan Hamilton (ed.) Dear World & Everyone In It: New Poetry in the UK (2013, Bloodaxe)

It’s probably true that the UK poetry world is richer, more varied and more vital than ever, which is a Very Good Thing, especially in terms of its thriving live scene. When it comes to spending one’s hard-earned poetry dollar, however, more poets equals more choice, and more choice, as is well known among consumers and bittorrent users, frequently leads to inertia. Thank goodness, then, for this long-overdue anthology of young British poets, Dear World & Everyone in It: New Poetry in the UK. Emphasis on the ‘New’: as editor Nathan Hamilton’s irreverent introduction tells us, ‘The Anthology’ has no interest in ‘Young Poets [who] still write Old Poetry’. Instead, ‘it will represent a plurality: not mean but be.’ The result is a Wunderkammer of fascinating, formally innovative work oozing with the language of the present, each poet committed in diverse ways to making it new. The pleasantly bulky volume is brimming with pleasure and invention, from Emily Toder’s weird and affecting lyrics to Francis Crot’s gleefully vitriolic tirade, and thus makes an excellent introduction to this disparate and underrepresented scene and a powerful weapon in our continuing war against the brutal tyranny of choice.

Martin Heidegger Poetry, Language, Thought translated by Albert Hofstader (1974, Harper Collins)

2013 was the year I ‘got’ Heidegger. The scare quotes are necessary because it’s not certain whether anyone ever ‘gets’ Heidegger, and as a total noob this is definitely true in my case. Be that as it may, reading his late work has been a revelation. Delightfully bonkers and utterly profound, it’s helped me frame the whole discourse of twentieth-century hermeneutics and deconstruction and given me perhaps the most compelling – even quasi-divine – way of thinking about poetic language yet. It’s philosophy Jim, but not as we know it – and all the more thrilling for it. As he states in ‘…Poetically Man Dwells…’, the vertex of his stunning volume of essays collected as Poetry, Language, Thought, ‘we do not need to prove anything here’. I found myself inclined to agree as I tripped into his hermeneutic circle on hot July days, borne away by his rhapsodic rhetoric into reveries on the Being of my being and the tree that gave me shade, as the text cleaved to meaning on the page. Ah, bliss was it in that dawn to be alive!

Amaranth Borsuk and Brad House Between Page and Screen (2012, Siglio)

Since I was asked to pick my three favourite books, I’m going to be cheeky and materialistic and pick the first ever augmented-reality experimental poetry book Between Page and Screen, which I finally got hold of earlier this year. Its pages hold no text, but only abstract pixelated blocks that resemble simplified QR codes. Present these blocks before your webcam, however, and see poems such as pixels form burst forth in the luminous glory of your computer screen! You might read the interaction as a literal embodiment of the poem as ‘activity, seeking to become itself’ (I.A. Richards) or a playful intervention in the print vs. digital debate. Or you might just delight in its dynamic constellations and charismatic lyrics as they disclose, with Oulipian flourish, a fraught and prosodically ecstatic love affair between a certain ‘P’ and ‘S’. Or you’ll just dismiss it as a gimmick. Fair enough, but remember: poetic form is only gimmick that stays gimmick, as Pound once didn’t say.

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