Recommended Summer Reads

With the holiday season upon us, poets and members put forward their must-reads for lazy-days

From recent reading I highly recommend the luminous, subtle Tugs in the Fog (Bloodaxe) by the Catalan poet Joan Margarit, translated by Anna Crowe. The Spanish Civil War and its after-effects, and the death of his handicapped daughter haunt poems which are nevertheless full of life. Also Carol Rumen’s Self into Song and David Constantine’s A Living Language from Bloodaxe’s brilliant lecture series. Essential reading!
Moniza Alvi

If you believe that one of the uses of poetry is to make you feel less alone, then read Paul Birtill’s Willing to Change (Hearing Eye). This, his latest collection, arrived on my doormat while I was in bed with the flu. I read it from start to finish and laughed all the way through. But be warned – not for the faint-hearted or those with more serious conditions.
Maggie Sawkins

Mistaking the Sea for Green Fields is Ashley Capps’s first collection. The poems are button-bright, surreal, Rimbaud-like narratives in the first person exuberantly combining irony, lyricism and farce. There is also a sense of personal darkness – a ‘no’ at the centre of the affirmation – which lends them an almost Mozartian charm. Bloodaxe supplies a CD (my Desert Island Disc) with Strong Is Your Hold. It’s moving to hear Galway Kinnell’s warm, slow, gravelly, plain-speaking voice reading the first poems he has published for a while, mostly on childhood and death. Ashley Capps Mistaking the Sea for Green Fields (University of Akron Press, 2007). Galway Kinnell Strong Is Your Hold (Bloodaxe, 2007).
Martha Kapos

Summer holidays are a time for self-indulgence, so perhaps it’s acceptable to reveal my almost guilty pleasure in Other Men’s Flowers, edited by Field Marshall Wavell and published in 1944. It might appear to be a tribute to dead white men (only eight women are represented), over sentimental and a celebration of war, but amongst the poems are ‘Tarantella’, ‘My Last Duchess’, Flecker’s ‘The Old Ships’, Alan Seeger’s ‘Rendezvous’ and so many more from my childhood and adolescence whose music first captivated me and made me want to write.
Jacqui Rowe

John Ashbery once introduced a reading by the late Kenneth Koch by saying that, “As you listen to him I think you will begin to realize that you are escaping to what you should never have been allowed to escape from”. That’s why I hope to row around Derwent Water this summer aboard a copy of Koch’s 800 page Collected Poems (Alfred A. Knopf).
Jeremy Over

“Kissing Stieglitz Good-Bye”, the first Gerald Stern poem I ever encountered (whose outrageous assertions ‘Every city in America is approached / through a work of art / and / he has a church on his knees’ have possessed me since that first reading) sits at the heart of this book. In poem after poem he is only an old Jew reminiscing among the cardinals and locusts in his garden, but every poem I have attempted for ten years has been a homage to this always rewarding writer. (This Time: new and selected poems by Gerald Stern, Norton)
Charles Johnson 

My reading patterns are rather idiosyncratic, so I’m not a good guide to the ‘Next Big Thing’. But I’d recommend a book I read two summers ago, Tony Hoagland’s What Narcissus Means to Me, for its playfulness and shifts of tone, which I found deeply refreshing. Or read David Constantine’s Collected Poems for its intelligence and lyricism and sheer comprehensiveness. Or – pushing the boundaries – Lynne Rees and Sarah Salway’s delightful Messages, where prose poem meets sexy short fiction in a book most women will enjoy having next to the bed.
Susan Wicks

Impossible Flying (Peepal Tree) Kwame Dawes’s most intimate collection to date. It is poetry about relationships of all kinds – not just between family members, but variant selves, identities, and masks. Dawes’s phrase-making is always honest, sharp, and deeply resonant. The strength of this book lies in its exactitude of language and tonality, and in the way vulnerability is presented in an unapologetic, convincing, and moving manner.
Sudeep Sen