For Americans, there is a certain mystique to British poetry, and vice versa. Thanks to this, and to social media connecting us to each other in the instantaneous "third space" of the internet, interest and awareness of poets on each side of the Atlantic has been steadily growing.
Mainstream efforts, like the far-reaching eye of Poetry magazine's editor, Don Share, helps greatly with this. Yet there is much to be gained by highlighting not only those poets who leap the pond in a moment of breakout success, but also the sheer breadth and power of emerging talent here in the Old World.
Important efforts from groups like The Complete Works have helped broaden the poetic spotlight beyond its historical pinpoint focus on Oxbridge-educated white men, and initiatives like the Barbican Young Poets give necessary encouragement to a younger generation.
For four years running, I have picked five poets whose commitment, intensity, and raw talent captivated me, and compelled me to share their words with American readers. Since that time, many have gone on to publish stunning books, and a few have won major awards. It is both gratifying and encouraging to know that raw poetic talent, like the weather, continues to saturate this land.
Without further ado, I give you this year's mix of UK-based poets whose work gave me pause and, sometimes, made me gasp.
Dominic Bury sometimes finds himself signing autographs for Japanese tourists in London, owing to his uncanny resemblance to Ron Weasley (Rupert Grint). However, his poetry has long since outgrown the bumbling teenage wizard phase, and offers up some moments of real magic. He shows a strong commitment to craft in poems that are darkly serious, cerebral, and spare.
Edward Doegar is General Manager of The Poetry Society, and a tireless promoter of all good things poetic here in the UK. He is also an excellent poet in his own right. Imperative, and gently confrontational, he pokes at language, provoking it into something more.
Emily Harrison is a wildcard performance poet with plenty to say. Astute and at times painfully humorous, her poems of wry observation betray a particular and peculiar turn of mind, as in the poem entitled, "Quinoa is Only Spelt Like That to Out the Working Class". She performs in London.
Amaal Said is a poet and photographer with a remarkable eye for both. She probes deeply into the human experience, extracting the tiny moments and telling details that make for memorable and compelling poetry. "Have you forgiven the ocean for drowning the thirsty?" she asks. Consistently after reading her work, I have to remember to shut my jaw.
Hilda Sheehan is deft and quirky in equal measure. She runs the Swindon Festival of Poetry, inhabits a range of alter egos, and generally makes poetry fun. That she has fun in her work is also evident, and infectious, tilting the spirit level on readers at every possible turn. The mundane is never ordinary beneath her pen.
So, there you have it -- five stellar poets. Once again, this is just a sprinkling of the talent now suffusing British poetry. My hope is that you will seek each out, online and in print, to keep your year ahead anything but dry.
Grab a book. Unfurl an umbrella. Enjoy.