The idea for this anthology – a poetic exploration of all things connected with the UK – was born in a different era, pre-Brexit vote and in a time when the Great British Bake-Off was still a BBC institution. How long ago that now seems…
The initial aim was to cover every corner of the UK, in an attempt to poetically (and politically correctly) map every angle in its diversity and flavour; its landscapes – town, city, country, coastal, its people – young, old, native, immigrant but it quickly became apparent this would be a near-impossible task. The focus then changed to simply selecting the best from the many excellent submissions – the best poetry of Britain, with little concern for any even-handed geographic weighting or coverage.
Featuring poetry from: Allen Ashley, Yvonne Baker, Rebecca Bird, Claire Booker, Stephen Bone, Ed Broom, Carole Bromley, Michael Brown, Sue Burge, Lewis Buxton, Karen Jane Cannon, Claire Collison, Sarah Doyle, Susan Evans, Matthew James Friday, John Foggin, David Hensley, Margaret Holbrook, Jannine Horsford, Jenni Wyn Hyatt, Karen Izod, Sarah James, Neil Leadbeater, Fokkina McDonnell, Miriam Obrey, Angela Readman, Maggie Sawkins, Derek Sellen, Elisabeth Sennitt Clough, Sue Spiers, Paul Stephenson, Alison Stone, Sarah Tait, Alex Toms, Sarah Watkinson, Jules Whiting, M. V. Williams and Lawrence Wilson.
‘Best of British’ is a wonderful anthology of accessible, varied and memorable poems. Now funny, now moving, its highlights include Angela Readman’s thoughts on the sex lives of neighbours and Paul Stephenson’s brilliant transplanting of Frank O’Hara’s walking New York poems to give us a British town in all its richness. Lawrence Wilson offers a timely satire of the UK citizenship test and ultimately, and importantly, these are poems for and about people as much as about place. Just as M.V. Williams explores the way in which place can store the past, so these covers store a cabaret of voices, and it’s really a joy to see them now – stepping, throat-clearing, dancing into the light.
Winner of the 2015 Costa prize for poetry
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1st April, 7.30pm at The George, Mount Ephraim, Tunbridge Wells