So after I had read that piece in Slightly Foxed about Sebald's Austerlitz, the piece that followed was about Candlestick Press and Jenny Swann's really innovative poetry series set up with a small inheritance left by her mother, so I thought I might as well read that again as well.
Each immaculate twelve-page poetry collection is themed (dogs, cats, tea, birds, bicycles, puddings, lovely unusual things that will mean and convey something to both givers and recipients) and at £4.95 as reasonable as any gift card, and far better perhaps for being the card that keeps on giving rather than the one that goes in the bin.
Jenny (or someone, thank you whoever anyway) sent me some of these back in 2008 when they first came out and I still have them here in the Poetry Dresser having always meant to send them onto people, because these are meant for sharing. And even more exciting to read about the Candlestick Press collaboration with Poet Laureate Carol Ann Duffy, who has undertaken to contribute a selection The Twelve Poems of Christmas every Christmas for the years of her tenure.
Poetry has featured very large in my daily reading this year. Several collections that have captured my heart and my imagination and several poets who have secured their comfy armchair in my personal pantheon of Greats.
It was a revisit of The World's Wife for the A Good Read performance that brought Carol Ann Duffy right back into perspective for me, as well as The Bees of course. I have been reading Selected Poems throughout the year too and doubt I go many days now without reading something by Carol Ann because I keep this volume, with its distinctive Angie Lewin cover design, on my desk and at my right hand.
Alice Oswald is now part of my furniture too, and huge admiration to her for holding to her principles and the stance she has taken over the funding of the T.S.Eliot prize by withdrawing from the short list. I think it takes a particular sort of courage these days to look £15,000 in the eye, that you were in with a chance of winning, and turn your back on it. Dart remains a treasure and I have become much more familiar with Woods etc through this year too.
I have Alice Oswald's latest collection Memorial, with the CD of Alice reading it, set aside for Christmas listening.
And talking of T.S.Eliot I have focused on getting to know Four Quartets this year. Shame on me for not reading it properly and sooner, and to my surprise how many lines from that have found their way into popular parlance. I have the CD of Ralph Fiennes reading it and so Ralph accompanies me on my walks occasionally.
This extract from East Coker is being quoted frequently this week in support of Alice Oswald's stance...
O dark dark dark. They all go into the dark,
The vacant interstellar spaces, the vacant into the vacant,
The captains, merchant bankers, eminent men of letters,
The generous patrons of art, the statesmen and the rulers,
Distinguished civil servants, chairmen of many committees,
Industrial lords and petty contractors, all go into the dark,
And dark the Sun and Moon, and the Almanach de Gotha
And the Stock Exchange Gazette, the Directory of Directors,
And cold the sense and lost the motive of action.
And we all go with them, into the silent funeral,
Nobody's funeral, for there is no one to bury.
Don Paterson's collection Rain is always in my sights (and not just outside the window this week) and of course Don offered me a new perspective on Shakespeare's Sonnets this year with his new commentary.
I have now progressed from Christopher Reid's A Scattering to his Complete Poems. The title poem of A Scattering continues to amble around in my head and I read it often and with Christopher Reid's own thoughts in my mind too... 'What appealed to me...as the mixture of clumsiness and grace in the elephant's behaviour. My grief was clumsy, but I hoped that grace would come of it.'
I expect you've seen the footage: elephants
finding the bones of one of their own kind
dropped by the wayside, picked clean by scavengers
and the sun, then untidily left there,
decide to do something about it.
But what exactly? They can't of course
reassemble the old elephant magnificence;
they can't even make a tidier heap...
...elephants at their abstracted lamentations -
may their spirit guide me as I place
my own sad thoughts in new, hopeful arrangements.
So now I'm looking for some new poetic directions for 2012... whither next dovegreyreaders??
I await your usual brilliant suggestions, meanwhile back to Candlestick Press....
If any of you feel you could give a home to Ten Poems About Bicycles, or Ten Poems about Puddings, or Six Poems by Christina Rosetti, please tell me which and why in comments, we will choose three people to receive, and I will do what I should have done when they first arrived and post them on ...I get there eventually.