Sunday, 16 November 2014

The Forward Book of Poetry 1994

The Forward Book of Poetry
London, Forward, 1993

My new life rule is that I will always take a collection of poetry with me when I go travelling / holidaying. 

I was lucky enough to get away over half term and have a copy of the Forward Book of Poetry 1994 in my small bag of luggage. On quiet nights when I couldn't sleep, I escaped to one of the minute stories in these poems. 

1994 was the second year of the Forward Prizes for Poetry, and it feels like quite a different selection from the current winners. Some of the issues explored are the same now as then - relationships, family and happiness are universal - but some are specifically contemporary, a reflection of the politics and technologies of the time. 

There are some absolute gems in this collection. Carol Ann Duffy was the winner of the best collection, with her sharp, angry wit; and Vicki Feaver's 'Judith' features, a poem I came across last year when dramatically recited by Poetry by Heart competitors. 

Then there is Sylvia Kantaris, one of my earliest poetic loves. During my final year in Exeter, I volunteered at the Heritage Collections, and was responsible for box listing a selection of drafts and notes donated by Kantaris. Reading through her early concepts, I think I first understood how poetry is constructed and crafted, so I was delighted to see 'Animals' in this book. 

This collection contains lots of brilliant poetry - humourous, political, romantic - but there were several that were assertive and uplifting that I found myself returning to again and again. Like the sonnet by Sophie Hannah, or Sylvia Dann's little unpunctuated masterpiece, both of which felt like the words could have been mine.

Poetry is powerful in that way - words, written by someone else, can speak to you or reassure you, and it makes you feel safe and whole.

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