BOOKS FOR CHRISTMAS CHAPTER & VERSE
Sunday 03 December 1995
2 Lovers, Rakes and Rogues (ed John Wardroper, Shelfmark pounds 9.99), picks up just after Norris leaves off with its saucy verses and ribald songs from 1580 to 1830. The collection ranges from the innocuous to the filthily exuberant world of punks and poxes. The editor thoughtfully glosses the slang: blowens, brimstones, doxies, mopsies and cullies are all whores. Shelfmark Books is at 60 St Paul's Road, London N1 2QW.
2 A more respectable stream of English poetry is navigated in So to the Land edited by Diana Rigg (Headline pounds 5.99). Despite the chocolate-box presentation - the large photo of the actress on the back, the landscape of dreaming stooks on the front - this is a delightful anthology of nature poetry. "Ode to Autumn" is inevitably here ("Some poems are too good to omit") but there is a host of less familiar pieces, themed around the four seasons. "I love poetry and never more than when a poet's art flushes my imagination from its accustomed torpor," Rigg says in her enthusiastic introduction.
2 Women's Poetry of the 1930s, ed Jane Dowson (Routledge pounds 8.99). The towering figures of that heady poetic decade were all male. This lively anthology attempts to salvage and reassess the women poets who worked in the long shadow of the Auden generation, and such familiar names as Naomi Mitchison, Sylvia Townsend Warner and Stevie Smith sit well with interesting lesser-knowns.
2 The contributors to Caribbean New Voices 1, edited by Stewart Brown (Longman pounds 5.50) nearly sink under the weight of their billing of "important new writing from the Caribbean", but this harvest of poetry and prose from new and unfamiliar writers is accessible and energetic. It's fascinating to see how freely writers move between impeccable formality and patois; Michael Gilkes, for example, who can say in one poem: "Doan tell me 'bout Guyana/I wuz a small boy in farty-eight" and begin another: "By night/in this enchanted wood/a jewelled toad comes down to drink/its own reflection in the stream."
2 Poems on the Underground (ed Gerard Benson, Judith Chernaik, Cicely Herbert, Cassell pounds 6.99) is in its Fifth Edition, now a substantial rattlebag that includes all the poems in the last four, plus the 16 poems currently soothing our nerves on the Tube. Good value, but the lack of a thematic linking can make these volumes feel like a lucky dip: you always get a present, but it might not be what you wanted.
2 Patrick Crotty's Modern Irish Poetry (Blackstaff Press pounds 14.99) justifies its price by providing a full 400 pages of rich and varied verse. His "modern" category starts with the century and encompasses, along with MacNeice, Beckett, Kavanagh, Heaney, Muldoon et al, translations from the Gaelic and work by the younger generation. A solid selection.
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