Poetry for summer: Lie back, and let the verse wash over you

The finest poetry collections have an internal consistency and a rhythm, a sense of order and unity between poems.

Unified in the most tragic way is Tim Liardet's The Storm House (Carcanet, £9.95), an elegy to a brother who died in mysterious, violent circumstances. It opens: "Trouble is with inventing a language, brother,/ when the only other person in the world who speaks it dies,/ you're left speaking to no one." The remaining poems tackle that paradox, speaking to "no one", yet also touching and engaging the reader.

"On Pett Level Beach" shows a family photograph: "the younger son with spade, dragging seaweed around his ankles", already "about to walk out of the picture". The gruesome formalities of death appal the poet. "I very gently drew out your brother's tongue/ and placed it back again, said the coroner,/ but began to feel it might have done it by itself." Two police officers on the doorstep could have walked out of a fairy tale: "They are pale/ and gamine, they speak in unison like twins and might/ be either men or women." They have turned up "to tell the/ truth of the mysterious dying."

The title sequence of 32 loose sonnets which closes the book is especially fine. "You lived among dangerous people. They were the men/ who picked the bits from your overcoat/ because they knew that shortly they'd be wearing it." The poet mourns: "Talking to the dead's not easy. I'm robbed in daylight/ of the gift of speech." This descent into the darkness is not morbid, but uplifting: "Look to the living... They should/ be kissed and kiss often and live to be a hundred."

In Certain Windows (Lintott Press, £9.95), the US-born poet Dan Burt tames painful memories into disciplined, memorable lines. "My heels rucked the kitchen rug as she dragged/ Me out at five to fight a bully," he writes of his mother, and now, "if lover lift a hand to caress my cheek/ I flinch." The family business was his blacking factory: "I was sent to the cold with men," he observes in "Ishmael". "Swaddled in white coat, chin to uppers/ I trained from twelve to butcher meat." The formal patterns of rhyme and metre are handled with equally sharp skill: "No angels graced that wilderness/ No wells, no Hagar, no augur..."

The central prose section, "Certain windows", is a superb memoir of the poet's challenging early life in a poor Jewish neighbourhood of Philadelphia. It has already been pointed out that the book's structure – poems, prose, poems – mirrors that of Robert Lowell's famous Life Studies, but Burt's hard-knock upbringing is the other side of the tracks from Lowell's sublime Boston Brahminity. The poet finds solace in fishing and sailing, a trait caught from his father: as the boatmen "pause – to watch sedge sway on flats/ Geese rise honking from wetland choirs", we savour the Keatsian echoes. Full of hard-won wisdom and beautiful lines, it's testament to the transforming power of poetry.

Lowell crops up in Rachel Boast's Forward Prize-shortlisted debut Sidereal (Picador, £8.99), a collection flavoured by the Old Testament and lit by the stars, "those on-lookers of the upper air". "On Reading Lowell's Imitations of Sappho" concludes "... a poem/ when at last it finds its true form/ seems as though it's been written before." Boast's true forms are triggered by love and travel, and poised between revelation and reticence.

In Edinburgh, "an inglorious hour" is spent "below street level, a dram with a clean finish/ set fair and square on the table." The tipsy poet observes "a better wine, on offer/ in a shabby newsagents", and descends "to the bottom/ of a bottle of Laphroig". "Blind Date" skewers a pompous swain: "He said he structured space with light/ for a living"; unsurprisingly "I was glad to be free." There's a fair bit of lying around on hillsides and tramping around harbours and, of course, star-gazing. A clever, lyrical debut.

Arthur Rimbaud's two collections, Une saison en enfer (1873) and Illuminations (1886) were ferociously intense and provocative works of art, setting the direction for poetry in the 20th century and beyond. Illuminations (Carcanet, £12.95) has now been translated by John Ashbery, and it proves a perfect match. Ashbery's brief introduction is thought-provoking and full of insight. These hallucinatory prose poems resemble "magic lantern slides", a "crystalline jumble" that is "still emitting pulses" today. These miraculous bulletins seem new-minted in Ashbery's deft renderings.

Arts and Entertainment

eurovision
Arts and Entertainment
Fearne Cotton is leaving Radio 1 after a decade

radio
Arts and Entertainment
The light stuff: Britt Robertson and George Clooney in ‘Tomorrowland: a World Beyond’
film review
Arts and Entertainment
Reawakening: can Jon Hamm’s Don Draper find enlightenment in the final ‘Mad Men’?
tv reviewNot quite, but it's an enlightening finale for Don Draper spoiler alert
Arts and Entertainment
Breakfast Show’s Nick Grimshaw

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

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
Arts and Entertainment
I am flute: Azeem Ward and his now-famous instrument
music
Arts and Entertainment
A glass act: Dr Chris van Tulleken (left) and twin Xand get set for their drinking challenge
TV review
Arts and Entertainment
MIA perform at Lovebox 2014 in London Fields, Hackney

music
Arts and Entertainment
Finnish punk band PKN hope to enter Eurovision 2015 and raise awareness for Down's Syndrome

eurovision
Arts and Entertainment
William Shakespeare on the cover of John Gerard's The Herball or Generall Historie of Plantes

books
Arts and Entertainment

Game of Thrones review
Arts and Entertainment
Grayson Perry dedicates his Essex home to Julie

Potter's attempt to create an Essex Taj Mahal was a lovely treat

tv
Arts and Entertainment
A scene from the original Swedish version of the sci-fi TV drama ‘Real Humans’
tv
Arts and Entertainment
Hugh Keays-Byrne plays Immortan Joe, the terrifying gang leader, in the new film
filmActor who played Toecutter returns - but as a different villain in reboot
Arts and Entertainment
Charlize Theron as Imperator Furiosa in Mad Max: Fury Road
film
Arts and Entertainment
Jessica Hynes in W1A
tvReview: Perhaps the creators of W1A should lay off the copy and paste function spoiler alert
Arts and Entertainment
Power play: Mitsuko Uchida in concert

classical
Arts and Entertainment
Dangerous liaisons: Dominic West, Jake Richard Siciliano, Maura Tierney and Leya Catlett in ‘The Affair’ – a contradictory drama but one which is sure to reel the viewers in
TV review
Arts and Entertainment
Richard Herring, pictured performing at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival two years ago
comedy
Arts and Entertainment
Music freak: Max Runham in the funfair band
theatre
Arts and Entertainment
film 'I felt under-used by Hollywood'
Latest stories from i100
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.

    Sun, sex and an anthropological study: One British academic's summer of hell in Magaluf

    Sun, sex and an anthropological study

    One academic’s summer of hell in Magaluf
    From Shakespeare to Rising Damp... to Vicious

    Frances de la Tour's 50-year triumph

    'Rising Damp' brought De la Tour such recognition that she could be forgiven if she'd never been able to move on. But at 70, she continues to flourish - and to beguile
    'That Whitsun, I was late getting away...'

    Ian McMillan on the Whitsun Weddings

    This weekend is Whitsun, and while the festival may no longer resonate, Larkin's best-loved poem, lives on - along with the train journey at the heart of it
    Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath in a new light

    Songs from the bell jar

    Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath
    How one man's day in high heels showed him that Cannes must change its 'no flats' policy

    One man's day in high heels

    ...showed him that Cannes must change its 'flats' policy
    Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

    Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

    Dominic Rossi of Fidelity says his pressure on business to control rewards is working. But why aren’t other fund managers helping?
    The King David Hotel gives precious work to Palestinians - unless peace talks are on

    King David Hotel: Palestinians not included

    The King David is special to Jerusalem. Nick Kochan checked in and discovered it has some special arrangements, too
    More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years

    End of the Aussie brain drain

    More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years
    Meditation is touted as a cure for mental instability but can it actually be bad for you?

    Can meditation be bad for you?

    Researching a mass murder, Dr Miguel Farias discovered that, far from bringing inner peace, meditation can leave devotees in pieces
    Eurovision 2015: Australians will be cheering on their first-ever entrant this Saturday

    Australia's first-ever Eurovision entrant

    Australia, a nation of kitsch-worshippers, has always loved the Eurovision Song Contest. Maggie Alderson says it'll fit in fine
    Letterman's final Late Show: Laughter, but no tears, as David takes his bow after 33 years

    Laughter, but no tears, as Letterman takes his bow after 33 years

    Veteran talkshow host steps down to plaudits from four presidents
    Ivor Novello Awards 2015: Hozier wins with anti-Catholic song 'Take Me To Church' as John Whittingdale leads praise for Black Sabbath

    Hozier's 'blasphemous' song takes Novello award

    Singer joins Ed Sheeran and Clean Bandit in celebration of the best in British and Irish music
    Tequila gold rush: The spirit has gone from a cheap shot to a multi-billion pound product

    Join the tequila gold rush

    The spirit has gone from a cheap shot to a multi-billion pound product
    12 best statement wallpapers

    12 best statement wallpapers

    Make an impact and transform a room with a conversation-starting pattern
    Paul Scholes column: Does David De Gea really want to leave Manchester United to fight it out for the No 1 spot at Real Madrid?

    Paul Scholes column

    Does David De Gea really want to leave Manchester United to fight it out for the No 1 spot at Real Madrid?