Pick Of The Year


The Odyssey of Homer, trs Robert Fagles, Viking pounds 25. The ultimate story-teller given a modern spin in this new translation which captures the sweep and flow of the original. Fagles's colloquialisms inject new vigour, but occasionally it's more C&W than ancient Greek, more Iowa than Ithaca.

The School Bag eds Seamus Heaney and Ted Hughes, Faber pounds 20/pounds 12.99. More solid and pedagogical than their earlier anthology, The Rattle Bag, this is a gallop through EngLit with detours into unfamiliar Irish, Welsh, Scots and medieval territory. The rule of one poem per poet occasionally makes for dull-but-worthy choices, but there's lots of fresh, unfamiliar stuff too. The notable failure is with women: surely Sylvia Plath is a significant omission.

Making for Planet Alice ed Maura Dooley, Bloodaxe pounds 8.95. The ideal corrective to Heaney and Hughes, this showcases 30 women poets who have published a first collection in the 1990s. And what a gang: Kate Clanchy, Sarah Maguire, Lavinia Greenlaw, Jackie Kay, Maggie Hannan, Alice Oswald, Ruth Padel, Sinead Morrissey and Katherine Pierpoint among them.

Kissing a Bone by Maura Dooley, Bloodaxe pounds 6.95. Dooley's own poems are alert, careful, and usually very short. She moves across registers from the political to the personal with ease, leaping from the Irish famine to the Berlin wall to her record collection and the contents of a handbag ("kleenex / several Polo mints (furry), a tampon, pesetas / a florin").

Salt Water by Andrew Motion, Faber pounds 7.99. A taut, enjoyable new collection, split into two halves: the first, poetical meditations on water, both fresh and salt; the second, a prose account of the sea voyage Motion took in an old sailboat, in the wake of John Keats.

Tales From Ovid by Ted Hughes, Faber pounds 14.99/pounds 7.99. Hughes's vigorous free translations of episodes from the Metamorphoses were the highlights of After Ovid, last year's anthology of modern responses to the Latin. Hughes has gone on to craft a book-full of these tours de-force. Hughes tears out bloodied gobbets from Ovid's intricate whole, and retells them to great effect.

A Painted Field by Robin Robertson, Picador pounds 12. "The Flaying of Marsyas", another Ovidian extemporisation, is the stand-out, a grisly account of the punishment meted out by Apollo to the satyr who tried to rival him. Startling in its gore and viscera, it's not typical of this observant, lucid, perhaps rather mild-mannered collection.

God's Gift to Women by Don Paterson, Faber pounds 6.99. There's wit and self- consciousness here, plus shovelsful of irony, as Paterson tackles the "difficult" second collection. A clever-clogs with soul, he likes Zen jokes, circumlocutions, obliquity, blank pages, enigmatic titles - and some not so enigmatic ("Buggery"). Dazzling.

Bargain With the Watchman by Eva Salzman, OUP pounds 6.99. "Masques", a 12-poem sequence, transposes the classical Muses into the modern world, where they meet in pubs, turn to crime or become hypochondriac. Elsewhere Salzman's cool, appraising eye and sharp tongue get to work on sex and men in an enjoyable second collection.

The Marble Fly by Jamie McKendrick, Oxford pounds 6.99. The title-poem sees the poet at Pompeii, admiring the detail of a wall relief showing a lizard "canopening" a cricket, "a mouse airlifted by an owl" and a fly. So hard, so still, perfectly preserved: "It can't have been long after / that much the same idea / occurred to Vesuvius". McKendrick has a fine eye for ironies, and for vivid images.

Arts and Entertainment
Ellie Levenson’s The Election book demystifies politics for children
bookNew children's book primes the next generation for politics
Arts and Entertainment
Pharrell Williams' “Happy” was the most searched-for song lyric of 2014
musicThe power of song never greater, according to our internet searches
Arts and Entertainment
Roffey says: 'All of us carry shame and taboo around about our sexuality. But I was determined not to let shame stop me writing my memoir.'
Arts and Entertainment
Call The Midwife: Miranda Hart as Chummy

tv Review: Miranda Hart and co deliver the festive goods

Arts and Entertainment
The cast of Downton Abbey in the 2014 Christmas special

tvReview: Older generation get hot under the collar this Christmas

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

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

Arts and Entertainment
Transformers: Age of Extinction was the most searched for movie in the UK in 2014

Arts and Entertainment
Mark Ronson has had two UK number two singles but never a number one...yet

Arts and Entertainment
Clara Amfo will take over from Jameela Jamil on 25 January

Arts and Entertainment
This is New England: Ken Cheeseman, Ann Dowd, Frances McDormand and Richard Jenkins in Olive Kitteridge

The most magnificently miserable show on television in a long timeTV
Arts and Entertainment
Andrea Faustini looks triumphant after hearing he has not made it through to Sunday's live final

Arts and Entertainment
Rhys says: 'I'm not playing it for laughs, but I have learnt that if you fall over on stage, people can enjoy that as much as an amazing guitar solo'
musicGruff Rhys on his rock odyssey, and the trouble with independence
Arts and Entertainment
Krysia and Daniel (Hand out press photograph provided by Sally Richardson)
How do today's composers answer the challenge of the classical giant?
Shenaz Treasurywala
Arts and Entertainment
Jason Watkins as Christopher Jefferies
Arts and Entertainment
Star Wars Director JJ Abrams: key character's names have been revealed
Arts and Entertainment
Pharrell Williams won two BBC Music Awards for Best Song and International Artist
Arts and Entertainment
Mark, Katie and Sanjay in The Apprentice boardroom
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating

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

    A timely reminder of the bloody anniversary we all forgot

    A timely reminder of the bloody anniversary we all forgot

    Who remembers that this week we enter the 150th anniversary year of the end of the American Civil War, asks Robert Fisk
    Homeless Veterans appeal: Former soldiers pay their respects to a friend who also served

    Homeless Veterans appeal

    Former soldiers pay their respects to a friend who also served
    Downfall of Dustin 'Screech' Diamond, the 'Saved By The Bell' star charged with bar stabbing

    Scarred by the bell

    The downfall of the TV star charged with bar stabbing
    Why 2014 was a year of technological let-downs

    Why 2014 was a year of technological let-downs

    Security breaches and overhyped start-ups dominated a year in which very little changed (save the size of your phone)
    Cuba's golf revolution: But will the revolutionary nation take 'bourgeois' game to its heart?

    Will revolutionary Cuba take 'bourgeois' golf to its heart?

    Fidel Castro ridiculed the game – but now investment in leisure resort projects is welcome
    The Locked Room Mysteries: As a new collection of the genre’s best is published, its editor Otto Penzler explains the rules of engagement

    The Locked Room Mysteries

    As a new collection of the genre’s best is published, its editor explains the rules of engagement
    Amy Adams on playing painter Margaret Keane in Tim Burton's Big Eyes

    How I made myself Keane

    Amy Adams hadn’t wanted to take the role of artist Margaret Keane, because she’d had enough of playing victims. But then she had a daughter, and saw the painter in a new light
    Ed Richards: Parting view of Ofcom chief. . . we hate jokes on the disabled

    Parting view of Ofcom chief... we hate jokes on the disabled

    Bad language once got TV viewers irate, inciting calls to broadcasting switchboards. But now there is a worse offender, says retiring head of the media watchdog, Ed Richards
    A look back at fashion in 2014: Wear in review

    Wear in review

    A look back at fashion in 2014
    Ian Herbert: My 10 hopes for sport in 2015. Might just one of them happen?

    Ian Herbert: My 10 hopes for sport in 2015

    Might just one of them happen?
    War with Isis: The West needs more than a White Knight

    The West needs more than a White Knight

    Despite billions spent on weapons, the US has not been able to counter Isis's gruesome tactics, says Patrick Cockburn
    Return to Helmand: Private Davey Graham recalls the day he was shot by the Taliban

    'The day I was shot by the Taliban'

    Private Davey Graham was shot five times during an ambush in 2007 - it was the first, controversial photograph to show the dangers our soldiers faced in Helmand province
    Revealed: the best and worst airlines for delays

    Revealed: the best and worst airlines for delays

    Many flyers are failing to claim compensation to which they are entitled, a new survey has found
    The stories that defined 2014: From the Scottish independence referendum to the Ice Bucket Challenge, our writers voice their opinions

    The stories that defined 2014

    From the Scottish independence referendum to the Ice Bucket Challenge, our writers voice their opinions
    Stoke-on-Trent becomes first British city to be classified as 'disaster resilient' by the United Nations

    Disaster looming? Now you know where to head...

    Which British city has become the first to be awarded special 'resilience' status by the UN?