Paperbacks: Answering Back, Ed. Carol Ann Duffy

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The Independent Culture

Good poetry is always a spirited conversation between then and now. This eye-opening anthology pairs 46 poems from the past with new partners: works by current poets that echo, wrestle, back-chat or otherwise engage with them. The couplings are sometimes odd, but always lively. Wit, mischief and (as Duffy's preface puts it) "electricty" crackle off the page.

So Carol Rumens answers Philip Larkin ("They fuck you up/ Your mum and dad") with "Not everybody's/ Childhood sucked:/ There are some kiddies/ Not up-fucked." More collegiately, Elaine Feinstein praises Anna Akhmatova; Owen Sheers grapples with John Donne, and Roy Fisher harmonises with Thomas Hardy. Top prize for concision goes to "Trowel", Tony Curtis's reply to Allen Ginsberg's Beat elegy, "Howl": "I have seen the best minds of my generation destroyed by DIY."