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Six on the best

Some of Britain's top poets tell ANDY CROFT which collections impressed them over the last 12 months

Gerda Stevenson

A wealth of poetry has absorbed me this year. Meg Bateman's fine Transparencies (Polygon) is a Gaelic-English volume exploring memory, people and place, whose centre piece is a virtuosic tribute to the mythology of ships.

Each image of Sharon Olds' searing Stag's Leap (Cape) brands itself on retina and heart - how will I ever forget the "Tiny Siren" found by accident in the washing machine?

From the late-flowering Eunice Buchanan As Far As I Can See (Kettilonia) is an utterly assured bilingual Scots-English first collection, wry yet lyrical and now, as the nights draw in on lambent Carrigskeewaun, I'm following Michael Longley's exquisite, masterly observations in A Hundred Doors (Cape).

Gerda Stevenson is a theatre director, playwright and actress, recently starring in BBC Radio 4's Paul Temple Mysteries. Her latest book is If This Were Real (Smokestack)


Michael Bartholomew-Biggs

My favourites of 2013 include Drysalter (Cape) Michael Symmons Roberts's substantial, cleverly -crafted mix of clarity and enigma, Uncollected Poems (Bloodaxe) by RS Thomas, featuring several surprisingly unbuttoned items in contrast to his usual spare, uncompromising eloquence and Steve Ely's Oswald's Book of Hours (Smokestack) - equally uncompromising in attitude but with greater verbal swagger.

Among more conversational voices I enjoyed Kathryn Maris balancing seriousness and playfulness in God Loves You (Seren), Maitreyabandhu negotiating memory's confusing nonlinearities in The Crumb Road (Bloodaxe) and Angela Kirby's deft movement between outrageous humour and authentic grief in A Scent Of Winter (Shoestring).

Michael Bartholomew-Biggs is poetry editor of the online magazine London Grip. His most recent book is Fred & Blossom (Shoestring)


Sasha Dugdale

My highlights include Toon Tellegen's A Man And An Angel (Shoestring Press). Tellegen read this incantatory work at the Brighton Festival and it has been superbly translated by Judith Wilkinson. Rocco Scotellaro, a rural socialist poet from post-war Italy has finally appeared in Your Call Keeps Us Awake (Smokestack) in Allen Prowle and Caroline Maldonado's fine translation.

Mother Departs (Stork Press) is Tadeusz Rozewicz's intriguing and poetic biography of his own mother: "I trekked across the landscape of poetry and have seen it with the eye of a fish a mole a bird a child a grown man and an old man."

Sasha Dugdale edits Modern Poetry In Translation. Her most recent collection is The Red House (Carcanet)


John Seed

Martha Collins's White Papers (University of Pittsburgh) is poetry that thinks about race and history in the US, a sequel to her brilliant and engaged historical investigations in Blue Front (Graywolf).

Other collections I enjoyed were John Hall's Keepsache (Etruscan Books) a companion work to his collection Else Here and Robert Sheppard's A Translated Man (Shearsman), translations of an allegedly fictional Belgian poet Rene Van Valckenborch.

The Other Hand (Horse Less Press) is by CD Wright, the author of the brilliant evocation of the Civil Rights movement in Arkansas in 1969, One With Others (Copper Canyon Press).

John Seed's most recent book is Manchester: August 16th & 17th 1819 (Intercapillary Editions)


Judith Kazantzis

My favourite poetry book of 2013 is Earthshine by Mimi Khalvati (Smith/Doorstop Books). This slim, elegant volume consists of 25 eight-couplet ghazals by the mistress of the form in English. The book opens with House Mouse, delicate, exact and strangely delightful and, even as you understand the mouse is dead, the poem is an elegy for life. Khalvati's is a poetry of light, of bright sadness exquisitely rhymed in emotional linkage, the glimpsed formality of the everyday, the succouring shadow and sunshine in which to hold to life even in its literally bombed wreckage. Profound and moving poetry.

Judith Kazantzis's most recent collection is Clickety Clackety, Eight Nursery Nasties (Nuts In May)


Steve Ely

Geoffrey Hill's Broken Hierarchies is the poetry book of the last several decades, never mind the year. David Morley's The Gypsy And The Poet is powerfully evocative of a vanishing England. John F Deane's verse pilgrimage Blessed And Broken paved the way to my belated discovery of his numinous oeuvre.

I've also been impressed by Adam White's Accurate Measurements, JO Morgan's At Maldon and Michael Symmons Roberts' Drysalter.

Finally, I've been delighted to re-encounter the sagas of Ragnar Lothbrok, Richard Rolle's English Writings and Luria and Hoffman's Middle English Lyrics.

 Steve Ely's most recent book is Oswald's Book of Hours (Smokestack Books)


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