by Clairet

As a distraction from my impending #refugepoetry challenge and the realization that we are over halfway into #readwomen2014, an initiative led by Joanna Walsh to change our reading habits, I thought I’d do a haphazard list of suggestions. These are completely idiosyncratic, I just woke up with an urge to share a couple of names, so here they are.

Poetry for a friend going through a difficult time at a hospital

I found myself playing the role of poetry-prescriber on Friday for a friend looking for poetry recommendations for a friend about to undergo chemotherapy. This was an interesting challenge and made me realize how hard it must be to find the right poetry book when you’re not ‘in the know’. Google ‘inspirational’ and ‘funny’ poetry and you’ll get an onslaught of trite rhyming sweets rather than the substance you’re after. If in doubt, ask a poet, eh? If you want to know what she left with by the way, they were: Ruth Padel’s Rembrandt Would Have Loved You, Jo Shapcott’s Of Mutability, and Luke Kennard’s The Harbour Beyond the Movie. I worried that Shapcott would be too obvious, but shared it anyway, and she loved the book, so sometimes obvious is just right. Padel and Kennard weren’t ones I had originally included in my suggestion pile but talking to her about her friend’s dark sense of humour and love of old masters and music made them seem like obvious choices. [Yes, I do realize that Luke is a man, but his collection was the right one for this job].

Poetry for people wanting to discover the next young thing

I love reading the Foyle Young Poets’ anthologies, not just for the poetry, but also the thrill of guessing who will becoming the next Helen Mort. Among the 2012 winners, Flora de Falbe stood out at first with her amazing name, then with her Kennard-ish poem. It’s been great to see her name pop up since, in Rising, or as the winner of the English National Ballet challenge. In the 2013 crop, the stand-out poem was by Emma Lister, a poet who has already accumulated a fair few awards for her age as a former National Trust poetry competition winner. While a Google search doesn’t elicit much proof of recent activity, I am sure this isn’t the last we’ll hear from her… The art world often puts too much onus on artists’ youth and pressure to achieve notoriety before an arbitrary sell-by date. While I hope these two poets fulfil their potential, I also hope they take the time to lead a varied and interesting life.

Quickfire suggestions

Poetry for culture vultures: Penny Boxall’s Ship of the Line, Fawzia Kane’s Houses of the Dead, Sue Rose’s Heart ArchivesAmy Key’s Luxe

Poetry for your favourite feminist: Sonia Hendy-Isaac’s The Contradictions of Flesh, Sophie Mayer’s The Private Part of Girls, Clare Pollard’s Ovid’s HeroinesAnna Percy’s Livid Among the Ghostings, Salena Godden’s Fishing in the Aftermath.

Poetry for someone going through a weight-loss program: Claire Crowther’s Incense.

Poetry for your favourite midlander: Liz Berry’s Black Country.

Poetry for Bingo-lovers: Maria Taylor’s Poetry Bingo.

Poetry for fans of history of medicine: Kelley Swain’s Opera di Cera.

Poetry for fans of insects: Helen Clare’s Entomology.

Poetry for fans of old-skool video games: Hannah Faith Notess’s Ghost HouseKirsten Irving’s Never Never Never Come Back.

Any suggestions for other categories, or for additions to these?