The Forward Book of Poetry 2007
London, Forward, 2006
2007 appears to have been the year of the incredibly long poem, and yet this collection is surprisingly short. As John Burnside notes in his foreword, the judges of 2007 selected six finalists for each category, instead of the usual five. But the selection of Highly Commended Poems is shorter than usual, and this is where I found the real gems.
This collection covers as wide a range of themes as any of the Forward Arts Foundation books, but there seems to be a heavier leaning towards poems about the labouring classes than usual, from forestry to mining and beyond.
Then, there are brilliant accounts of fantasy like Tim Wells' 'On Being Expelled from Eton for Shagging Tallulah Bankhead', which imagines a world in which a working class boy could go to an establishment school.
Although many of these poems are rather longer than I typically prefer, there are some excellent examples of experimentation with form, including Allan Crosbie's 'Manifesto', the power of which is so difficult to articulate - you will simply have to read it yourself to believe it.
But I think my favourite is 'Bird' by Clare Shaw - somewhat unexpectedly, as I am not the kind of person who likes stories about animals; I have always responded better to human pain and success. But 'Bird' is so beautifully written, so delicate and innocent, that I could not help but love it.