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My Poetry Collections

I'm a big fan of poetry and even write some myself. The collections I own have all influenced me in some way and made me see how each individual writer can use the medium diffferently. It would be impossible to boil down poetry to a single person hence the range of poets I have in my posession. It must be noted that these are simply the collections I own currently. I intend to buy more and expand my knowledge and enjoyment of this form of writing.

Egghead or, You Can't Survive on Ideas Alone by Bo Burnham

A blue book cover reads 'The New York Times Bestseller' 'Egghead or You Can't Survive on Ideas Alone'. It states that it is written by Bo Burnham and that the drawings are done by Chance Bone.
Source: OverDrive

"The world was much crueler an hour ago.
I'm glad someone decided to give flowers a go."

I found Bo Burnham the way most people did: through his stand-up comedy. He was engaging and intelligent, presenting comedy to an audience in a way that I definitely had not seen before, so when I found out he was also a published poet, I was excited. He managed to translate both morbid and silly humour into the poetry form with a clear influence Shel Silverstein, both in tone and in artwork.
I remember I loved the poems so much that a lot of my early poetry was derivative of it in my attempts to be funny as well as deep. Unfortunately, this is not where I have landed in terms of tone or even form with my own work, but I can say that his collection jumpstarted my own writing hence why I am so fond it.

Favourite poem: Mmmmmm 

milk and honey by Rupi Kaur

A black book cover with two bees on it. The text reads 'milk and honey' and it is written by rupi kaur.
Source: Jade's Bookshelf

"you were a dragon long before
he came around and said
you could fly"

Though not judging a book by its cover is probably the way I would go when choosing something to read, this book caught my eye specifically because of the minimalist artwork on the front. When in the bookshop, I flicked through the pages and found more art to accompany the poetry inside. This is what initially caused me to purchase this collection. 

This collection will not be for everyone, particularly those who consider themselves poetry purists who are not a fan of free-verse or the lack of capitalisation. It has been compared to "tumblr poetry", not a compliment by those stating this I'm sure, but I believe that this collection is significantly more complex than simple teenage prose.

What Kaur does is explore the complexities of being an Asian woman brought up in a world that does not seem to value her race or gender. She explores love and heartbreak like many other poets, but her most compelling section for me was where she talked about healing. She is able to articulate forgiveness, not only of other people but of ourselves, in a way that is understandable. Her simple imagery may be mistaken for lack of skill but instead I think it speaks more to the average reader, translating complex emotions in a relatable way.

Favourite poem: the healing

Howl and Other Poems by Allen Ginsberg

A black and white book cover. The text reads 'The Pocket Poets Series' 'Howl and Other Poems' 'Allen Ginsberg' 'Introduction by William Carlos Williams' 'Number Four'
Source: Biblio

"who scribbled all night rocking and rolling over lofty 
incantations which in the yellow morning were
stanzas of gibberish"

I have to be honest; I didn't know Allen Ginsberg, beat poetry or that writing did not have to follow specific rules until I saw the 2010 film Howl starring James Franco. Whilst the film fascinated me in how it translated Ginsberg life onto the screen, what did so more were the words from the collection sprinkled throughout. I'm not sure I'd heard the world being spoken about in such a cynical and explicitly morbid way. Because I was the angstiest teenager there ever was, this spoke to me.
As a teenager, you almost feel tricked by how idyllic you imagined the world to be as a child and I know how angry I would get at how unfair things seemed to be. Having someone born decades before you express the same injustices is both saddened me and justified that what I was feeling was not simply something teenagers go through.

The poem, Howl, depicts a dizzying world where the people are unsatisfied and tired of the system, using large corporate buildings as symbolism for capitalism. Furthermore, Ginsberg is able to portray how the people in his own life have been affect by the world around them, including his mother who struggled with mental illness and was put into an asylum for it. I love delving into melancholy poetry because I believe it opens readers up to feeling intense emotions not really available in their everyday life, often revealing the most about us as humans.

Favourite poem: Howl

And Still I Rise by Maya Angelou 

A blue book cover with a pale blue flower design in the background. A flower drawing curls off the the letter 'r' in the text. The text reads 'Maya Angelou' 'And Still I Rise' 'From the author of I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings'
Source: Amino Apps

"The mouth seamed, voiceless,
Sounds do not lift beyond 
those reddened walls."

Maya Angelou is a world-renowned poet and someone I believe everyone who loves art and writing should read at least once. As a person, she is fascinating and as a writer, she able to fully immerse you within her experiences. The way she is able to tell her stories is one that feels as if she is sat there speaking to you.

Within this collection, I felt she was evoking confidence within her own community, particularly aimed at women of colour; her complex depiction of race and the human experience provides a perspective previously unheard from. As a black woman, the determination she had in herself and other black women around her could be considered revolutionary. Angelou is able to talk about love and discrimination so candidly that it is not surprising that she has become so revered as a writer.

Favourite poem: The Lie

W.H. Auden, Poems selected by John Fuller

A picture of the poet W.H. Auden. In the corner, there is a logo for the publisher 'Faber & Faber'. The text reads 'W.H. Auden' 'Poems Selected by John Fuller'.
Source: Amazon UK

"Woken by water
Running away in the dark, he often had
Reproached the night for a companion
Dreamed of already."

The reason I bought this collection was because of my A-level English classes in an attempt to understand more about a poet I was studying. Auden was a writer who wrote philosophically about a specific time in history, and like Ginsberg, spoke very cynically about humanity. This collection encompasses that.

What I will say is that Auden can come off as quite exclusionary, particualy because he will often write about specific figures in history, those of which may have been well known at the time of publishing, but to a modern audience will be completely lost on. I can appreciate poets who are able to seem timeless, but there is something in me that enjoys learning about a set moment where, unless you are aware of the precise details of a particular war or public figure, you will have to do some research. In way, this collection and much of Auden's poetry invites you to learn and engage with texts. He invites the reader to look deeper; to not only read but experience the poetry.

Favourite poem: This Lunar Beauty

Rapture by Carol Ann Duffy

A red background with a drawing of a branch and an open fig. The text reads 'Rapture' '"Carol Ann Duffy is the most human and accessible poet of our time" Rose Tremain' 'Carol Ann Duffy' 'Poet Laureate' 'Winner of the 2005 T.S. Eliot Prize'
Source: Wikipedia

"our hearts were jagged stones in our fists,
the garden sprouted bones, grown from the dead."

It has to be said that I'm not fond of Carol Ann Duffy as whole. A lot of her poetry centres around love and romance which personally I find tedious. Or maybe I just can't relate to her poems very much. The specific reason I bought this collection was because I wanted to give her chance. After all, I'd only read a select few of her works before this collection.

Despite my reservations about the subject matter of her poetry, what I did enjoy was the consistent and complex use of imagery pertaining to nature. Being able to relate the world to its bare roots is something I try to do in my own poetry as it helps me understand myself and the people around me. Rapture was constructed in a way that gave significant amounts of detail to the environments the poems were set. What Duffy then expertly did was relate these surroundings back to the tone and the emotions felt, prorviding a complex picture of the emotional landscape that lovers may have to navigate. From this perspective, I can appreciate Duffy's poetry and see why she became the Poet Laureate.

Favourite poem: Ithaca

Graffiti and Other Poems by Savannah Brown

A black background with several cartoon ghosts flying around amongst several stars. The text reads 'Goodreads Choice Awards Finalist' 'Graffiti (and other poems)' 'Savannah Brown' 'Illustrated by Ed Stockham'
Source: A Whisper Of Ink

"sometimes i am the haunting in the house"

I know Savannah Brown from her YouTube channel where she performs spoken word poems and speaks about her life including her experiences with anxiety and eating disorders. I became very interested in spoken word poetry through the internet but I wasn't introduced to her until a friend showed me her 'Hi, I'm a Slut' video, a poem speaking about the double standard that women face in terms of expressing their sexuality. This is what compelled me into buying her collection.

Brown is able to write openly about dark subjects such as death and dealing with the anxieties of life in a way that I believe would speak very well to a young audience. Her poetry was enough to make me feel more encouraged to write my own poetry and think more introspectively in terms of where I fit within the universe. I became very aware through this collection that poetry is not just writing what you see, but how you feel and how you perceive the world.

Favourite poem: Three Things I Have Learned Four Thousand Miles From Home

Dark Sparkler by Amber Tamblyn

A white background with a stencil of a woman's head inside a star. She has pink hair and yellow lips. The text reads 'Dark Sparkler' 'Amber Tamblyn'
Source: to be shelved

"I know how it feels 
to want nothing more than to be loved.
What we have in common gives us our appeal -
the fact we never got enough"

I didn't know Amber Tamblyn was a poet until I came across a video of her performing a poem from her Dark Sparkler collection. What compelled about this collection was its central theme - acting and treatment of women in the film and TV industry. The different poems in her collection are named after actresses, some real and others fictional, that have died early and often tragically. What she is able to explore as an actress herself is her own possible fate, seeing the effects of fame on her predecessors and how it can negatively impact ones self-esteem and mental health.

The tragic, though often humorous, descriptions of these women is able to paint an honest picture of how women who go into acting are glorified for their youth and in an ironic twist, never get see themselves become has-beens. This book opened my eyes to a whole new side of sexism as well as introducing me to the legacy of actresses I may have never known before.

Favourite poem:  Untitled Actress

Fat Girl Finishing School by Rachel Wiley

A book sits next to a cup overflowing with marshmallows. The book cover is pink and green. It has a cake with a slice cut out of it and a cartoon fork in front of the cake. The text reads 'Fat Girl Finishing School' 'Rachel Wiley'
Source: Bust Magazine

"my body needs no excuse to be loved
No excuse to be seen
No excuse to be touched, enjoyed celebrated"

This collection is one that I needed to read. It is rare that the word "fat" is talked about in a positive way. What Wiley is able to do through this collection is reclaim the word as simply a desciptor, emphasising the fact that your weight should not be all that defines you and it does not mean that you should be treated like any less of a person. She is able to talk about her struggles and acceptance with her weight in real life situations, such as looking for clothes or simple existing.

Through her spoken word, I am able to see how easy it is to become obsessed by both your own and other people's appearance. Body negativity is something that unfortunately links a lot of people together and for Wiley to be able to explore this in a way that is as relatable as this, deserves a lot more recognition.

Favourite poem:  For Nicholas Who Is So Concerned

New American Best Friend by Olivia Gatwood

A book lays on a wooden surface. The book cover shows a black and white photo of a young girl sat in front of a window. The text reads 'New American Best Friend' 'Olivia Gatwood'
Source: Olivia Gatwood

"the man 
tells me who he is, and i listen. i have so much beautiful time."

I have known about Olivia Gatwood through her work on Button Poetry so as soon as I heard she was releasing a collection, I was excited. Much of her poetry talks about personal experiences, particularly that of being a woman in the modern world. Within this collection, she conveys how as children, girls are meant to see each other as competition, told to not excel at "boy sports" and later in life, not explore their sexualities in the same boys are allowed to. She often writes in odes, turning things that may be seen negatively, such bitch faces and the word pussy, into aspects of herself worth celebrating. Her exploration of the self in reference to gender conveys a modern and darkly humorous look at life.

Favourite Poem:  Ode to the Women on Long Island

Physical by Andrew McMillan

The book cover is a black and white photo of a naked man's back. The text reads 'Andrew McMillan' 'physical' 'Cape Poetry'
Source: Robin Houghton

"you thought men simply carried on 
when your dad unfolded in front of you
nobody taught you how to fix him back together" 

This is a collection I bought recently and one that I found by accident. I think what most drew me in was the cover where, for lack of better words, a bare arse was visible. Now I feel this would catch anybody eye and when I picked it up I was expecting it to be an exploration of female sexuality/the female form from a male poet's perspective. However as I read through the first couple of pages I became pleasantly surprised. I'd picked up a poetry collection that was trying to translate masculinity in a gentle, almost passive way. This is not something I have seen before.

To find poems that are able articulate the constraints of masculinity, how it teaches men to surpress emotions, was refreshing and unbelievably relevant at this time. Furthermore, McMillan talks about his relationships with men and how they have been affected by his inability to communicate how he is feeling. This collection is necessary in terms of its fresh perspective on what it means to be a man.  

Favourite poem: the men are weeping in the gym