Books of the Year: Poetry

An exciting new band of names is causing a stir

In a year which saw new books from three doyens of English-language poetry – Seamus Heaney, Les Murray and Derek Walcott – Roddy Lumsden presents the new generation from Britain and Ireland in Identity Parade (Bloodaxe, £12), anthologising 85 poets from an estimated 1,000 who have either published first collections over the past 15 years or are on the point of doing so. Though Lumsden is not afraid to omit some familiar names as he reduces that staggering total to double figures, the result is still rather unwieldy.

It's a shame that the partial anthology with a proselytising introduction has been supplanted by ever-reasonable acknowledgements of pluralism. Not only might a book of fewer contributors have caused more of a stir, but it could also have signalled an abandonment of the quotidian aesthetic dominant in British poetry for more than half a century. Poets as different as Paul Batchelor, Jen Hadfield, Daljit Nagra and Alice Oswald nevertheless have in common a delighted use of language and thrilling momentum. The readership for poetry might be small but, hearteningly, the poets of Identity Parade still write as if it means the world.

Lumsden did well to pick out Sam Willetts before he had published his first volume, New Light for the Old Dark (Cape, £10). His powerful poems explore drug addiction and his Jewish mother's wartime experience without raising their voice. The most notable debut of 2010, the collection has been shortlisted for an unprecedented five awards, including the TS Eliot and Costa prizes.

At 48, Willetts is a late starter, having lost a chunk of his life to heroin. A year younger than Willetts, a fixture of the British poetry scene for more than two decades, and a novelist, essayist, translator, playwright and broadcaster to boot, Simon Armitage this year published Seeing Stars (Faber, £12.99). These bizarre yet oddly pertinent pieces marry the panache of Armitage's verse with the deadpan storytelling of his prose, especially the hilarious All Points North. An invigorating alternative to the default setting of solemnity that characterises too much poetry, Seeing Stars is a bold move from a writer in mid-career.

Mick Imlah died of motor neurone disease in 2009, aged 52. His Selected Poems (Faber, £12.99) brings back into print a generous selection from his debut, Birthmarks (1988). There was a 20-year wait for its follow-up, The Lost Leader, a tour de force of public and private history. It closes with a clutch of personal poems which offer a heartbreaking glimpse of the poet Imlah might have become.

Oliver Reynolds has also taken his time producing Hodge (Areté, £7.99). Appearing after an 11-year hiatus, his fifth book moves fluently between the autobiographical and the historical, the comic and the serious, the lyric and the narrative as it essays the menial work of caretakers, ushers and pyramid builders. Other poems swipe amusingly at the world they have entered:

This poem believes that literary prizes
are a part of PR, not literature.
This poem may contain traces of nuts.
It will not save your life.
Well, someone had to say it.

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

books
Arts and Entertainment
Tim Vine has won the funniest joke award at the Edinburgh Festival 2014

Edinburgh
Arts and Entertainment
Peter Capaldi and Chris Addison star in political comedy The Thick of IT

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Judy Murray said she

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Tim Vine has won the funniest joke award at the Edinburgh Festival 2014

edinburgh
Arts and Entertainment
Jeremy Paxman has admitted he is a 'one-nation Tory' and complained that Newsnight is made by idealistic '13-year-olds' who foolishly think they can 'change the world'.

Edinburgh
Arts and Entertainment
Seoul singer G-Dragon could lead the invasion as South Korea has its sights set on Western markets
music
Arts and Entertainment
Gary Lineker at the UK Premiere of 'The Hunger Games: Catching Fire'
tv
Arts and Entertainment
Christian Bale as Batman in a scene from
film
Arts and Entertainment
Johhny Cash in 1969
musicDyess Colony, where singer grew up in Depression-era Arkansas, opens to the public
Arts and Entertainment
Army dreamers: Randy Couture, Sylvester Stallone, Dolph Lundgren and Jason Statham
film
Arts and Entertainment
The Great British Bake Off 2014 contestants
tvReview: It's not going to set the comedy world alight but it's a gentle evening watch
Arts and Entertainment
Umar Ahmed and Kiran Sonia Sawar in ‘My Name Is...’
Theatre
Arts and Entertainment
This year's Big Brother champion Helen Wood
arts + ents
Arts and Entertainment
Full company in Ustinov's Studio's Bad Jews
Theatre
Arts and Entertainment
Harari Guido photographed Kate Bush over the course of 11 years
Music
Arts and Entertainment
Reviews have not been good for Jonathan Liebesman’s take on the much loved eighties cartoon
Film

A The film has amassed an estimated $28.7 million in its opening weekend

Arts and Entertainment
Untwitterably yours: Singer Morrissey has said he doesn't have a twitter account
Music

A statement was published on his fansite, True To You, following release of new album

Arts and Entertainment
Full throttle: Philip Seymour Hoffman and John Turturro in God's Pocket
film
Arts and Entertainment
Kylie Minogue is expected to return to Neighbours for thirtieth anniversary special
tv
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Middle East crisis: We know all too much about the cruelty of Isis – but all too little about who they are

    We know all too much about the cruelty of Isis – but all too little about who they are

    Now Obama has seen the next US reporter to be threatened with beheading, will he blink, asks Robert Fisk
    Neanderthals lived alongside humans for centuries, latest study shows

    Final resting place of our Neanderthal neighbours revealed

    Bones dated to 40,000 years ago show species may have died out in Belgium species co-existed
    Scottish independence: The new Scots who hold fate of the UK in their hands

    The new Scots who hold fate of the UK in their hands

    Scotland’s immigrants are as passionate about the future of their adopted nation as anyone else
    Culture Minister Ed Vaizey: ‘lack of ethnic minority and black faces on TV is weird’

    'Lack of ethnic minority and black faces on TV is weird'

    Culture Minister Ed Vaizey calls for immediate action to address the problem
    Josephine Dickinson: 'A cochlear implant helped me to discover a new world of sound'

    Josephine Dickinson: 'How I discovered a new world of sound'

    After going deaf as a child, musician and poet Josephine Dickinson made do with a hearing aid for five decades. Then she had a cochlear implant - and everything changed
    Greggs Google fail: Was the bakery's response to its logo mishap a stroke of marketing genius?

    Greggs gives lesson in crisis management

    After a mishap with their logo, high street staple Greggs went viral this week. But, as Simon Usborne discovers, their social media response was anything but half baked
    7 best quadcopters and drones

    Flying fun: 7 best quadcopters and drones

    From state of the art devices with stabilised cameras to mini gadgets that can soar around the home, we take some flying objects for a spin
    Andy Murray: I quit while I’m ahead too often

    Andy Murray: I quit while I’m ahead too often

    British No 1 knows his consistency as well as his fitness needs working on as he prepares for the US Open after a ‘very, very up and down’ year
    Ferguson: In the heartlands of America, a descent into madness

    A descent into madness in America's heartlands

    David Usborne arrived in Ferguson, Missouri to be greeted by a scene more redolent of Gaza and Afghanistan
    BBC’s filming of raid at Sir Cliff’s home ‘may be result of corruption’

    BBC faces corruption allegation over its Sir Cliff police raid coverage

    Reporter’s relationship with police under scrutiny as DG is summoned by MPs to explain extensive live broadcast of swoop on singer’s home
    Lauded therapist Harley Mille still in limbo as battle to stay in Britain drags on

    Lauded therapist still in limbo as battle to stay in Britain drags on

    Australian Harley Miller is as frustrated by court delays as she is with the idiosyncrasies of immigration law
    Lewis Fry Richardson's weather forecasts changed the world. But could his predictions of war do the same?

    Lewis Fry Richardson's weather forecasts changed the world...

    But could his predictions of war do the same?
    Kate Bush asks fans not to take photos at her London gigs: 'I want to have contact with the audience, not iPhones'

    'I want to have contact with the audience, not iPhones'

    Kate Bush asks fans not to take photos at her London gigs
    Under-35s have rated gardening in their top five favourite leisure activities, but why?

    Young at hort

    Under-35s have rated gardening in their top five favourite leisure activities. But why are so many people are swapping sweaty clubs for leafy shrubs?
    Tim Vine, winner of the Funniest Joke of the Fringe award: 'making a quip as funny as possible is an art'

    Beyond a joke

    Tim Vine, winner of the Funniest Joke of the Fringe award, has nigh-on 200 in his act. So how are they conceived?