Literary reviews by Tim Love.
Warning: Rather than reviews, these are often notes in preparation for reviews that were never finished, or pleas for help with understanding pieces. See Litref Reviews - a rationale for details.

Wednesday, 11 May 2016

"Poems of the decade" (Forward Ltd, 2011)

A selection from a decade's worth of Forward anthologies, so one would expect it to be a good read, and so it is. The selection isn't done anonymously though. I read quickly, gathering first impressions.

My likes include Armitage's "Chainsaw versus the Pampas grass", Ros Barber's "Material", Paul Farley's "Liverpool disappears for a billionth of a second", Patrick McGuinness's "A history of doing nothing", Robert Minhinnick's "The fox in the national museum of Wales", Caitriona O'Reilly's "Autobiography".

Burnside still divides me. His "History" includes

and though we are confined by property
what tethers us to gravity and light
has most to do with distance and the shapes
we find in water


Sometimes I am dizzy with the fear
of losing everything - the sea, the sky,
all living creatures, forests, estuaries:
we trade so much to know the virtual
we scarcely register the drift and tug
of other bodies


                   the long insomnia
of ornamental carp in public parks
captive and bright
                   and hung in their own
             transitive gold

which is close to being tosh - the abstracts soon lose their power to surprise, and "transitive gold", along with the indents, suggest poetic bankruptcy. If you let yourself be dragged along by his mood music though, it's a fun ride.

If anything was going to be considered ineligible because it's not a poem (irrespective of quality), it would be "Bernard Manning plays Totnes Civic Hall" by Hilary Menos.

Rhyme's not dead yet. There are sestinas by Kate Bingham and Allan Crosbie (the latter repeating more than the final words in lines). Sinead Morrissey has a villanelle. Emma Jones and Jo Shapcott have sonnets. Cope and Sophie Hannah rhyme, the latter repeating lines too. Mick Imlah rhymes thoroughly, as do John Stammers and Tim Turnbull.


  1. Dear Tim

    Most of my poems rhyme. It's much harder to write a rhyming poem but, ironically, you get far less credit for it.

    Best wishes from Simon R. Gladdish

    1. "Poetry" recently published an article trying to encourage free-formers to use form at

      I write some rhyming poems. I'm rather careful about where I send them.