Poetry round-up: from the buzz around Helen Mort to Andrew Philip's 'sheer joy' in language

Verses to be savoured long after the thrills have faded

There’s been a buzz around Helen Mort for a while, and her debut, Division Street (Chatto £12) doesn’t disappoint. An alternative title would be North, only the late Seamus Heaney got there first. “The mills are plush apartments now,” she notes. “My favourite kind of shot? / A view of other people’s windows, / glowing on a terraced street at night.” (“Outtakes”.) “Miss Heath” is a tribute to an old ballet teacher (“Her French was wasted / in the north”), and by extension all helpers we don’t appreciate at the time.

The stand-out sequence is “Scab” (Mort was born in Sheffield and grew up in Chesterfield), concerning both the original “Battle of Orgreave” between striking miners and police in 1984, and the artist Jeremy Deller’s 2001 recreation. “This is a re-enactment. / When I blow the whistle, charge / but not before. On my instruction, / throw your missiles in the air. / On my instruction, tackle him, / then kick him in the bollocks, boot him / like a man in flames.” Some good poems came out of her stint at the Wordsworth Trust in Grasmere, notably “Coffin Path” with an Armitagean last line to take away and ponder. There’s also a welcome touch of the Gothic in “Seven Decapitations”: “This is the last time, / and the first time you shout. / I wish I’d done it quickly / while the lights were out.”

Alas, the lights have gone out at Salt for poetry; their impressive list has been axed as they focus on fiction. Recently I enjoyed Edward Mackay’s pamphlet, Swarming (Salt £6.50), which is clever, accessible and formally inventive. A list-poem entitled “The Size of Wales” is printed in the shape of Wales: “the Amazon / we lost this year” “Helmand province” “the things I used to / know”. It reminded me of the joke: “Wales. It’s the size of Wales.”

The Scottish poet Andrew Philip’s second collection The North End of the Possible (Salt £12.99) brings back MacAdam from his first: an amateur physicist, metaphysician and Everyman. “Our man unsilos a sample of the night, cupping it as a child would do / a creature scooped from a cage or pond,” he writes in “MacAdam Essays the Truth of Each Dichotomy”. Philip’s sheer joy in the language shines out: that one poem has “gooey, glaurie dub”, “birls”, “wheech” and the great line “a mirk eagle raxing its wingspan”. Expensive, pound per page perhaps, but these are books to be revelled in long after the thrillers have fallen apart.

“Edges are where meanings happen,” writes the Welsh poet Christopher Meredith in his fourth collection Air Histories (Seren £8.99). The poem is “Borderland”, and you need the note to make full sense of it: “Ffin is the Welsh for border. It occurs inside diffiniad, which means definition and in Capel y Ffin, a place in the Black Mountains.” Borders are firmly outlined, and the poem is tightly constructed with a strict rhyme scheme; yet borders are also hazy and liminal (half-rhymes allowed). Meredith also likes concrete poems – here’s one in the shape of an arrowhead – and experimentation, though the confetti of “At Colonus” is largely space wasted. “Thaws and Disappointments” is a blinding play of images on a theme of winter dawn. The bare trees resemble “leggy fashion plates in sable tights” as fields like “Terry-thomas tweeds / turn silverplate, George Clooney sleek”, while the sun is an “idiot toff”. To the sardonic poet, it’s all rather naff. “The sky pulls on those criss-cross jet trails like / the diamonds on a pimpish golfer’s socks.”

Jean Sprackland follows up her Costa-winning collection Tilt with Sleeping Keys (Cape £10), full of poems that are unashamedly domestic. We begin with a house chimney and a china ornament, but already there is something sinister being enacted beneath the familiar. The “Shepherdess and Swain” knick-knack is ruthlessly analysed until it seems the only kind thing to do is “knock them onto the hearth and smash them”. “Homemaking” begins: “How simple the act of slicing bread, how nourishing” but ends with a knife in the hand, a “ruined street of bread houses” and a “desperate smell”. One to lay beside Sharon Olds’ Stag’s Leap; less flamboyant than the American, more restrained, but no less affecting.

Tara Bergin’s This is Yarrow (Carcanet £9.95) is a riddling debut, aloofly clever, somewhat Russian-influenced, and full of jumps and arcane references, with notes that don’t explain much. “All Fool’s Day: An Academic Farewell” seems to set out her stall: “In this paper / I will make no direct reference to the above title …” She can also earth herself with humour and a tender simplicity. I think she sometimes forgets the reader. But that’s all right.

Arts and Entertainment
Jamie Dornan as Christian Grey in Fifty Shades of Grey

film Sex scene trailer sees a shirtless Jamie Dornan turn up the heat

Arts and Entertainment
Fake Banksy stencil given to artist Alex Jakob-Whitworth

art

Arts and Entertainment
'The Archers' has an audience of about five million
radioA growing number of listeners are voicing their discontent; so loudly that even the BBC's director-general seems worried
Arts and Entertainment
Ready to open the Baftas, rockers Kasabian are also ‘great film fans’
musicExclusive: Rockers promise an explosive opening to the evening
Arts and Entertainment
Henry VIII played by Damien Lewis
tvReview: Scheming queens-in-waiting, tangled lines of succession and men of lowly birth rising to power – sound familiar?
PROMOTED VIDEO
Arts and Entertainment
Taylor Swift is heading to Norwich for Radio 1's Big Weekend

music
Arts and Entertainment
Beer as folk: Vincent Franklin and Cyril Nri (centre) in ‘Cucumber’
tvReview: This slice of gay life in Manchester has universal appeal
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
Arts and Entertainment
‘A Day at the Races’ still stands up well today
film
Arts and Entertainment
‘The Royals’ – a ‘twisted, soapy take on England’s first family’
tvAnd its producers have already announced a second season...
Arts and Entertainment
Kraftwerk performing at the Neue Nationalgalerie (New National Gallery) museum in Berlin earlier this month
musicWhy a bunch of academics consider German electropoppers Kraftwerk worthy of their own symposium
Arts and Entertainment
Icelandic singer Bjork has been forced to release her album early after an online leak

music
Arts and Entertainment
Colin Firth as Harry Hart in Kingsman: The Secret Service

film
Arts and Entertainment
Brian Blessed as King Lear in the Guildford Shakespeare Company's performance of the play

theatre
Arts and Entertainment
In the picture: Anthony LaPaglia and Martin Freeman in 'The Eichmann Show'

tv
Arts and Entertainment
Anne Kirkbride and Bill Roache as Deirdre and Ken Barlow in Coronation Street

tvThe actress has died aged 60
Arts and Entertainment
Marianne Jean-Baptiste defends Joe Miller in Broadchurch series two

tv
Arts and Entertainment
The frill of it all: Hattie Morahan in 'The Changeling'

theatre
Arts and Entertainment
Gillian Anderson and David Duchovny may reunite for The X Files

tv
Arts and Entertainment
Jeremy Clarkson, left, and Richard Hammond upset the locals in South America
TV
News
A young woman punched a police officer after attending a gig by US rapper Snoop Dogg
people
Arts and Entertainment
Reese Witherspoon starring in 'Wild'

It's hard not to warm to Reese Witherspoon's heroismfilm
Arts and Entertainment
Word up: Robbie Coltrane as dictionary guru Doctor Johnson in the classic sitcom Blackadder the Third
books

Arts and Entertainment
The Oscar nominations are due to be announced today

Oscars 2015
Arts and Entertainment
Hacked off: Maisie Williams in ‘Cyberbully’

Maisie Williams single-handedly rises to the challenge

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Eddie Redmayne in The Theory of Everything and Benedict Cumberbatch in The Imitation Game are both nominated at the Bafta Film Awards
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.

    Isis hostage crisis: The prisoner swap has only one purpose for the militants - recognition its Islamic State exists and that foreign nations acknowledge its power

    Isis hostage crisis

    The prisoner swap has only one purpose for the militants - recognition its Islamic State exists and that foreign nations acknowledge its power, says Robert Fisk
    Missing salvage expert who found $50m of sunken treasure before disappearing, tracked down at last

    The runaway buccaneers and the ship full of gold

    Salvage expert Tommy Thompson found sunken treasure worth millions. Then he vanished... until now
    Homeless Veterans appeal: ‘If you’re hard on the world you are hard on yourself’

    Homeless Veterans appeal: ‘If you’re hard on the world you are hard on yourself’

    Maverick artist Grayson Perry backs our campaign
    Assisted Dying Bill: I want to be able to decide about my own death - I want to have control of my life

    Assisted Dying Bill: 'I want control of my life'

    This week the Assisted Dying Bill is debated in the Lords. Virginia Ironside, who has already made plans for her own self-deliverance, argues that it's time we allowed people a humane, compassionate death
    Move over, kale - cabbage is the new rising star

    Cabbage is king again

    Sophie Morris banishes thoughts of soggy school dinners and turns over a new leaf
    11 best winter skin treats

    Give your moisturiser a helping hand: 11 best winter skin treats

    Get an extra boost of nourishment from one of these hard-working products
    Paul Scholes column: The more Jose Mourinho attempts to influence match officials, the more they are likely to ignore him

    Paul Scholes column

    The more Jose Mourinho attempts to influence match officials, the more they are likely to ignore him
    Frank Warren column: No cigar, but pots of money: here come the Cubans

    Frank Warren's Ringside

    No cigar, but pots of money: here come the Cubans
    Isis hostage crisis: Militant group stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

    Isis stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

    The jihadis are being squeezed militarily and economically, but there is no sign of an implosion, says Patrick Cockburn
    Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action

    Virtual reality: Seeing is believing

    Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action
    Homeless Veterans appeal: MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’

    Homeless Veterans appeal

    MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’ to help
    Larry David, Steve Coogan and other comedians share stories of depression in new documentary

    Comedians share stories of depression

    The director of the new documentary, Kevin Pollak, tells Jessica Barrett how he got them to talk
    Has The Archers lost the plot with it's spicy storylines?

    Has The Archers lost the plot?

    A growing number of listeners are voicing their discontent over the rural soap's spicy storylines; so loudly that even the BBC's director-general seems worried, says Simon Kelner
    English Heritage adds 14 post-war office buildings to its protected lists

    14 office buildings added to protected lists

    Christopher Beanland explores the underrated appeal of these palaces of pen-pushing
    Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

    Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

    Scientists unearthed the cranial fragments from Manot Cave in West Galilee