There has been a great deal of flustered fluttering on Twitter (now known as X) in recent weeks, as regular users have become concerned for the platform’s viability. Change is always tricky to deal with. Amid expressions of nervousness, uncertainty for the future, defiance, outrage etc, it’s also become clear how significant the micro-blogging site has been to the poetry community – as an online meeting place where we can form new friendships, discover new journals, explore unfamiliar poetic forms, become reacquainted with old favourites, market our own work and celebrate the work of others.
Throughout December I have been posting my #PoetryAdventCalendar on Twitter, sharing a different poetry book each day in the lead-up to Christmas. They’re all books I’ve read and enjoyed over the course of this year. Many are by poets I first discovered through Twitter, sometimes via circuitous routes.
My eclectic tastes are reflected in my choices. There are fine collections of lyric poetry, each with a distinctive voice: thoughtful and layered from Phil Vernon; pared and musical from Paul Ings; subtle explorations of a rich inner landscape from Regine Ebner; tender and achingly wistful from Annick Yerem; pulsating and surreal from Michelle Moloney King.
One of the joys of this year has been the discovery of Heart Carnelian Publishing, established by Samantha Rumbidzai Vazhure, which focuses on writers from Zimbabwe and the Zimbabwean diaspora. My Advent calendar includes vibrant collections by Zimbabwean poet Dzikamayi Chando, South Sudanese poet Marial Awendit, and Vazhure herself.
Three anthologies are featured: The Book of Penteract from Penteract Press, edited by Anthony Etherin and Clara Daneri; Pandemic Love and Other Affinities from IceFloe Press (lead editor Moira J. Saucer); and Black Bough Poetry’s Christmas-Winter Volume III (lead editor Matthew M. C. Smith). All three are beautifully curated, with contributions by poets and visual artists from around the world.
Formal, constrained poetry has always appealed to me. Particular highlights this year are Anthony Etherin’s Fabric (Beir Bua Press) and Facets by Erica Castellanos; one of many elegantly crafted publications from Penteract Press.
Visual and hybrid poetry can take a variety of forms. I’ve enjoyed spending time with pamphlets by Laura Kerr and Robert Frede Kenter, as well as with Astra Papachristodoulou’s sparkling Constellations, Richard Carter’s thought-provoking Signals, and the finely tuned collaboration between voice and image in Today is a Thursday by Richard Capener and Imogen Reid. The Ox House, Teo Eve’s ‘love letter to the letters of the alphabet’, is inventive, informative and delightful. Mike Ferguson’s experimental & there4 skilfully deploys found, cut-up and erasure techniques to reveal hidden meanings and unexpected connections. Described as a reflective journal, Margaret O’Brien’s beautiful Weather Report is also an extended poetic metaphor, offering space for our own therapeutic responses.
In an intriguing partnership with AI, Sasha Stiles interrogates how a transhuman future might unfold. AI also plays a role in Machinations, a dazzlingly inventive poetic exploration of Alan Turing’s life and work by JP Seabright and Kinneson Lalor.
Every one of these books resonates with me on both a creative and a personal level. Another attribute they have in common is that they are published by small independent presses, often run by one or two people. My Advent calendar is thus a paean to those dedicated editors who take risks with emerging poets or with publishing visual, hybrid and experimental work, particularly in these difficult times. They deserve our gratitude, and our support.
This applies equally to editors of literary journals, both print and digital. Throughout the year I’ve enjoyed reading poetry published online in various e-zines. Some of these are established favourites, others are exciting newcomers on the block. My final Advent calendar choice is a poem from The Amethyst Review, an online platform for writing that engages with the sacred, edited by the wonderful Sarah Law. I’ve subscribed to the Review’s daily posts for many years – it’s a spiritually nourishing way to start the morning.
Here’s the full list of my 2022 Poetry Advent Calendar, grouped by publisher. Browse! Enjoy! Treat yourself and buy some books! Buy them all!
- Regine Ebner: Oxidized Pennies
- Paul Ings: One Week, One Span of Human Life
Amethyst Review (online publication). Edited by Sarah Law, poetry and prose posted daily (sometimes more than once a day).
Beir Bua Press: Note: Beir Bua Press sadly closed down in June 2023. However, both Anthony Etherin and Mike Ferguson have generously made their Beir Bua publications freely available online as PDFs. These links are given below.
- Anthony Etherin: Fabric
- Mike Ferguson: & there 4
- Matthew M. C. Smith, Damien B. Donnelly and M. S. Evans (eds.): Black Bough Poetry Christmas-Winter vol. III
- Sasha Stiles: Technelegy
- Marial Awendit: Whispers over a Brewing Dawn
- Dzikamayi Chando: Cremation of the Scarecrow
- Samantha Rumbidzai Vazhure: Starfish Blossoms
(Note: all three books are also available from Barnes & Noble – links are on the Carnelian Heart Books page.)
- Richard Carter: Signals
- Astra Papachristodoulou: Constellations
- Phil Vernon: Watching the Moon Landing
- Annick Yerem: St Eisenberg and the Sunshine Bus
- Moira J. Saucer, Robert Frede Kenter, Anindita Sengupta & Jakky Bankong-Obi (eds): Pandemic Love and other Affinities
- Richard Capener and Imogen Reid: Today is a Thursday
- Laura Kerr: Flowerkeepers
Paper View Books offers a great selection of experimental poetry. This year I’ve also enjoyed The Murderer Threatened by James Knight, Stamp Etudes by Gary Barwin and Rubik’s Cube by Sacha Archer, and there are several pamphlets on my shopping list for next year!
- Erica Castellanos: Facets
- Anthony Etherin and Clara Daneri (eds.) The Book of Penteract
- Teo Eve: The Ox House
Everything Penteract Press publishes is beautiful and worthwhile, and I have many of their books. Facets is one of their Enneract Editions chapbooks: others that I’ve enjoyed this year include Scaling the Mountain of Winter by Luke Bradford, Time among the Sphinxes by Christian Bök, The Noson Sonnets by Anthony Etherin, love in the fields by Alex McKeown (trans.) and Extra Long Matches by Chris Kerr.
- Robert Frede Kenter: Eden
- Michelle Moloney King: Another Word for Mother
- JP Seabright and Kinneson Lalor: Machinations
- Margaret O’Brien: Weather Report (Also available from other outlets, including Amazon)