I write reviews for pleasure and to broaden my reading, but I only review collections I like. At seventy-two, life’s too short to dwell on poems I don’t enjoy or can’t understand, or which other reviewers might be better equipped to appreciate. Having said that, I often find myself coming round to a collection I’m initially unsure about once I’ve lived with it for a while. The big plus for me about writing reviews is that it makes me slow down, whereas my natural tendency might be to turn the page and avoid the challenge.
My favourite living poet is John Burnside, and my favourite dead one is R.S. Thomas. I also like quirky or surreal poets such as Stevie Smith, Selima Hill, Charles Simic and Luke Kennard, and poets who combine humour and seriousness, like Kit Wright, Wendy Cope or Caroline Bird.
I have a particular interest in children’s poetry and admire its honesty, positivity and anarchy. There are some excellent poets writing for children at the moment. Kate Wakeling is just one name to watch. Children’s poetry is becoming much more varied and experimental, but has not yet abandoned rhythm, rhyme and traditional forms, all of which I enjoy.
I listen out for good rhymes in pop songs. ‘Up the Junction’ by Squeeze has always delighted me with its rhymes and half-rhymes: happen / the girl from Clapham; forgiveness / not my business; incubator / minutes later; my assumption / up the junction.
When I’m not doing poetry-related things, I like to walk the local lanes and see how many birds I can spot or hear. There are fewer birds round here than there used to be, so it lifts my heart to hear a song thrush or a chiff chaff. Hope is the thing with feathers!