POETRY | Daily Mail Online


A perfect way to recapture the excitement of a Christmas stocking is through the pages of an anthology, filled with unexpected — as well as familiar and much-loved — pleasures. So here are some suggestions packed with delight.

The last in William Sieghart’s brilliant Poetry Pharmacy trilogy is, once again, full of wisdom and will bring comfort to anyone who yearns to soothe a troubled heart and learn more about poetry. 

Do you have a specific problem? Look it up for a prescription from ‘Dr’ Sieghart. His choices are inspired, his analyses (about the usefulness of poems for human pain) are superb and I’d gladly give this marvellous, short anthology, The Poetry Pharmacy Forever (Particular Books £14.99, 176pp) to all my friends. 

The Poetry Pharmacy Forever (Particular Books £14.99, 176pp)

The Poetry Pharmacy Forever (Particular Books £14.99, 176pp)

With Every Night Is Full Of Stars, Aoibhin Garrihy has a similar idea (Bonnier £12.99, 192pp), although it’s much simpler overall. But her attractively designed book of ‘meaningful poems for life’ provides a good introduction to the companionship of poetry for a younger readership. 

More substantial is the latest anthology compiled by the tireless and talented Allie Esiri (it’s her tenth). 365 Poems For Life (Bluebird £22, 368pp) is another book for the bedside, offering a poem for every single day, themed as the seasons unfold, and also sub-divided into topics such as gratitude, family and friends and inspiration. 

Equally full of charm and wisdom is the beautifully illustrated National Trust Book Of Nature Poems (Collins £9.99, 160pp). 

Deborah Alma’s seven sections — including seasons, birds and wildlife, woods, water, moors and mountains — invite you to enter the natural world in the company of observant poets. 

Ranging through the centuries, it ends with a superb poem, Stargazing, by Glyn Maxwell. Nature poetry never fails to lift the spirits, reminding us that we humans are just small parts of a sublime whole. 

Newly in paperback is Hugh Haughton’s masterly collection, Second World War Poems (Faber £12.99, 384pp). While the famous poets of WWI are still much read, for many people the catastrophe of WWII still remains a strange, poetic no-go area. No longer. 

National Trust Book Of Nature Poems (Collins £9.99, 160pp)

The Penguin Book Of Elegy (Penguin Classics £40, 688pp)

National Trust Book Of Nature Poems (Collins £9.99, 160pp) and The Penguin Book Of Elegy (Penguin Classics £40, 688pp)

This essential anthology contains work by servicemen (Keith Douglas and Alun Lewis for example) as well as observers, victims of the Holocaust, important women poets like Elizabeth Bishop and Anna Akhmatova and many others. It is a fine collection to shock and shape the soul. 

If I close with the mighty anthology called The Penguin Book Of Elegy (Penguin Classics £40, 688pp), it is to defy any fear of death and celebrate the glorious life distilled within these pages of mourning. Edited by Andrew Motion and Stephen Regan, the ‘Poems of Memory, Mourning and Consolation‘ are organised alphabetically, ranging from ‘Anonymous’ to Andrew Young, an arrangement that results in thought-provoking juxtapositions (for example the 17th century poet Sir Henry Wotton next to contemporary Kit Wright) to jolt you into new understanding. 

At Christmas, especially, many of us grieve quietly for those no longer with us, so this volume is a magnificent reminder of the permanence of love.



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