Wednesday, 31 December 2008

2008 in brief

It's been a strange sort of Christmas. I was away in Northumberland helping host our Readers' Christmas Holiday on the big day itself, which was great fun. Plenty of good food, a few drinks, quizzes, some poetry, and of course lots of birds. On Boxing Day, we watched a few sites along Druridge Bay, and among other highlights got great views of a dog Otter and a Bittern.

Unfortunately, since getting back, I've been struggling badly with a cold, but it has at least allowed me to get on with plenty of reading and writing. And of course, I've been fine-tuning my Best of 2008 lists.

As ever, they're far from comprehensive, due to me having a less than reliable memory, and the fact that there are quite a few books that I bought this year that I'm only now getting round to reading. But for what it's worth, here they are:

Best new poetry collections (some might be 2007 books)
The Bestiary - Sam Meekings
A Winged Head - Graham Hartill
You Are Here - Simon Turner
The Yellow Studio - Stephen Romer
Breaking The Glass - LouAnn Muhm
Singing In The Dark - Alison Brackenbury
Backward Turning Sea - Kelvin Corcoran

Best chapbooks
Inextinguishable - James W Wood
Lady Godiva and Me - Liam Guilar
Rebuilding A Number 39 - Marilyn Ricci
Paper Run - Jim C Wilson
Lament of the Wanderer - Jane Holland
Persephone In Hades - Ruth Pitter (a new edition from HappenStance)

Best Collected/Selecteds (of those I've read this year - they're not necessarily recent)
Selected Poems - Michael Hofmann
Selected Poems - Bernard O'Donoghue (as mainstream poets go, undeservedly overlooked and underrated, I think)
Magpie Words - Richard Caddel
Collected Poems - Lynette Roberts
Gyrfalcon Poems - Colin Simms (a sort of Collected on a single theme, I suppose. One for the birdwatcher, maybe, but excellent)
Collected Later Poems - RS Thomas

Best anthology
In Person: 30 Poets (Bloodaxe) - not perfect, but a great idea, well executed, and for £12. A format we'll be seeing a lot more of, I think.

Best 'back catalogue' books
Almost - Oliver Reynolds
A Robin Hood Book - Alan Halsey

Best fiction
The Dig - John Preston
Engleby - Sebastian Faulks

Best non-fiction books
Bloodfeud: Murder and Revenge In Anglo-Saxon England – Richard Fletcher
The Man Who Went Into The West – Byron Rogers
Poetry Wars - Peter Barry
The Peregrine - J A Baker

Oh, and best bird of the year? Well, I think it's a toss-up between the Red-footed Falcon at Ingleby at the end of May, or the migrating Black Redstart that appeared just outside my front door earlier in the spring.

So, here's to a happy and peaceful 2009 for everyone. I'll be back in 2009...


Anonymous said...

Thank you thank you thank you Matt - not sure I deserve it, but thank you anyway. My very best wishes for 2009 - James

Coastcard said...

Thanks for the list: I shall return to this!

Jane Holland said...

Thanks for naming Lament of the Wanderer as one of your favs, Matt. My version seems to have struck a chord with quite a number of people ... which is great, esp. as the poem took me AGES to translate, at a painfully slow pace of four lines a day on average. But it all worked out in the end, it seems.


Matt Merritt said...

Hi James and Jane - my big test of any poetry book is nearly always how much I want to re-read it, and I've gone back to both your chapbooks again and again.

I did a reading of bird poems for our readers' holiday over Christmas, Jane, and started it off with an extract from The Seafarer, and an Anglo-Saxon bird riddle. Both proved very popular, which probably shouldn't have surprised me, but it did. But anyway, it seems that Anglo-Saxon poetry can still, as you say, really strike a chord, which has to be good.

Happy New Year to you all!