What book(s) are you reading right now?
Having recently attended the Free Verse: Poetry Book Fair in London, I returned home with a (slightly too large) pile and I’m slowly making my way through those pamphlets. From Ignition Press: Mia Kang’s City Poems, Majella Kelly’s Hush and Alycia Pirmohamed’s Hinge. From Sad Press: Nisha Ramayya’s In Me the Juncture. From Bad Betty Press: Gboyega Odubanjo’s While I Yet Live. And from Fly on the Wall Press: Attracta Fahy’s Dinner in the Fields.
Beside my bed, I have a stack of books and I try to read one poem a day from my own lodestone poets; at the moment, it’s collections from Vasko Popa, Ghassan Zaqtan and Gabriel García Lorca (my attempts at reading in both Spanish and English). During my commute I prefer to read non-poetry, so I’m also reading Maxine Hong Kingston’s Women Warrior – one of the books that Ocean Vuong referred to as crucial to him when writing his novel, “On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous”.
The first and last books on your bookcase/shelf
Anyone who knows me would define me as a book-person (am I a hoarder, a librarian, a keen supporter of the arts – the interpretation is up to you.) I like the randomness of this question but, due to my Virgo tendencies, my books are organised into a kind of ordered chaos and variously collected into different combinations around my lounge: novels by location/setting, theory books, pamphlets, anthologies and full-length poetry collections. I’ve decided on the poetry books, which are organised A-Z by author surname:
Fleur Adcock - Split (Blue Diode)
Moikom Zeqo - I Don’t Believe in Ghosts Poems by Moikom Zeqo, translated by Wayne Miller (BOA Editions)
A book that you started but never finished.
James Joyce’s Ulysses. I’ve started and put down this book a number of times. I know the opening very well (and still can taste my confusion!). I spent an unrequited year trying to make my way through this book many times over as someone I was in love with had written their dissertation on Ulysses. The first time I tried to read this novel was when I was still at school, but perhaps I need time; perhaps some books find their way to us so that the book aligns at the appropriate moment for us – it’s not now, but it will be soon.
Your favourite anthology.
I can’t decide between New European Poets, edited by Wayne Miller and Kevin Prufer (Graywolf Press) and Language for a New Century: Contemporary Poetry from the Middle East, Asia, and Beyond, edited by Tina Chang, Nathalie Handal and Ravi Shankar (WW Norton and Company). There’s a particular poignancy since 2016 for the first one, and the second one published in 2008 lacks representation of New Zealand poets from the Asian diaspora (there are some amazing ones out there!) but both collections give me the opportunity to read poets’ work that I very rarely find in British bookstores. There are over 2,000 poems across these two anthologies and they both contain such incredible range – this amazing resource and repository of poetic styles provides me with the motivation and inspiration to experiment and develop new ways of thinking about poetry.
A book yet-to-be-released which you are looking forward to reading.
It’s safe to say that Natalie Diaz’s Postcolonial Love Poem (Graywolf Press US / Faber UK) is top of this list. She is an exceptionally important poet to my own writing. Her New Yorker letter-poetry correspondence with Ada Limón is one of my favourite pieces of collected poetry. She has produced many poems between her first and this second book. I’m so curious to see what this book looks like as well as being impatient to dive into her beautiful and important words! I’m also pretty excited that there will be a UK imprint and I don’t have to pay shipping, lol. A win-win situation.
I also wanted to shout-out to Leila Chatti’s Deluge (Copper Canyon Press). She is another important poet to me whose collection of poems I’m eagerly anticipating. Anyone who watched the Twitter video of her book unwrapping can appreciate the joy of a first book!