Penguin's Poems for Life, ed Laura Barber

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The Independent Culture

This collection tracing life's trajectory of birth, childhood, marriage, work, children, middle-age and death, is nothing but a delight from start to finish. Laura Barber has chosen a mix of well-known favourites (Robert Frost's "The Road Not Taken", Dylan Thomas's "Do Not Go Gentle into That Good Night") and lesser known, more recent offerings. Of the latter, Adrian Mitchell's "This Be The Worst", written on hearing that someone once mistook Larkin's famous line, "They fuck you up, your Mum and Dad" for "they tuck you up, your Mum and Dad" is a blast of sunshine through the rain; Fleur Adcock's anti-love poem "Against Coupling" raises a bitter smile, and Carol Ann Duffy's "Mrs Sisyphus" seems to confirm that we live in a more cynical age which could never comprehend the inspiration behind the love poetry of John Clare or Andrew Marvell.

A collection that tells a narrative is a good idea and it works well here, combining opposites and contradictions as much as it celebrates cohesion and confusion.