Staying Human: New Poems for Staying Alive Edited by Neil Astley (Bloodaxe Books)

Tears in the Fence

Perhaps going against the grain, for a book with a more popular following, indeed maybe people who don’t often read poetry, rather than for its critical reception I’ve found this book quite vital and engaged and indeed, to my ears, broaching new ground for poetry’s place including in the quite diverse market of anthologies, a Bloodaxe specialism.

Arguably Neil Astley’s now four volumes of theStaying Aliveseries, from 2002, is the most impacting mainstream venture in poetry publishing possibly since the Hughes/HeaneyRattle Bag. The emphasis here as there is on the single poem.Rattle Bagwas organised alphabetically by poem title. I’d say thankfully Astley has not done so and the poems here are arranged thematically under ten headings with a poets’ index.

I think a difficulty arises in pitching either too high or low. Readers might have high expectations of these poems, but they are very…

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