The Kids by Hannah Lowe (Books 2022, 3)

    I don’t think I’ve ever written about a book of poetry here before. That’s because I don’t read that much of it. Whenever I do, I think, ‘I should read more poetry.’

    This won the Costa, but that’s not the main reason I picked it up. The author, Hannah Lowe, was a tutor on my MA course. She taught my Creative Nonfiction (CNF) module. Which sounds a long way from poetry, but a person can have skills in more than one type of writing. She was very good as a tutor, and in fact I got my highest single mark in CNF.

    It’s a very short and easy read, but some of the poems go to some dark places. Others — most, I’d say — are highly positive and life-affirming. They were inspired by her time teaching sixth formers in English schools. Which made me wonder on my CNF class chat, should we be worried about what her next collection’s going to be about?

    Hopefully she won’t repeat herself. These are all sonnets, or in one cases a series of sonnets under one title, and very good, as the awards people clearly think.

    A Special Way of Being Afraid

    I only know one other of Philip Larkin’s poems; it is about parents and children. This one — ‘Aubade’ — is the best poem about death I’ve ever read.

    A sample:

    That this is what we fear—no sight, no sound,
    No touch or taste or smell, nothing to think with,
    Nothing to love or link with,
    The anaesthetic from which none come round.

    Sir Gawain and the Green Night translated by Bernard O'Donoghue (Books 2014, 15)

    This is an unusual choice. It was a present; I do like poetry, but I probably wouldn’t have chosen it for myself.

    But it’s great. I really enjoyed it. It’s a strange story. Set in King Arthur’s round table, of course — at least at the start. The titular hero (Gawain, I mean) is said to be the noblest, bravest, most humble, etc, knight.

    A mysterious, supernatural, green figure interrupts the New Year feast at Camelot and issues a challenge. Gawain takes it up, and has a year to complete his side of the deal.

    He’s clearly the top procrastinator of the round table, too, because he leaves it till after the following Christmas before he sets off to find the Green Knight.

    The noble hero is tested and tempted, and (spoilers) wins through. It’s short, and fun. Oddly (or not) I remember the story, but nothing of the poetry. I could go and get the book and quote you some, but I think I’ll just leave it at that.

    Oh, except to say, of course, this is an ancient work, and Tolkien also did a cover version of it. But I expect you knew that.


    Hi, I'm back. Have you missed me? I have some good news.

    First Edition is a new magazine publishing new writing: fiction, poetry, and reviews. It’s just reached issue 4. That’s an important one to remember. Issue 4. That’s the one you should go and buy.

    That’s the one that contains a poem by me.

    Oh yes. I am a published poet, as of - well, just about today, really.

    Available now from some good magazine shops, allegedly. But certainly from that there website.

    Go on, check it out. You know you want to.