For my seventh birthday my mum gave me The Golden Treasury of Poetry, selected and with a commentary by Louis Untermeyer, illustrated by Joan Walsh Anglund. It was probably the best 21 shillings my mum spent on me. I still have that book, with my name written in spidery joined-up writing, inside both front and back covers! Here I met William Blake, Emily Dickinson, Robert Frost, Ogden Nash, T. S. Eliot, Eleanor Farjeon, Lewis Carroll, Edward Lear, Gerard Manley Hopkins, E. E. Cummings, John Clare, and so many others who would become lifelong favourites.
At school I was lucky to be taught by a young teacher who was passionate about poetry – she fascinated me by turning red from the neck upwards as she recited Shakespeare and Donne in class. Studying English at Cambridge, I devoured Edward Thomas’s work in the days before he was lauded, and I read a lot of American poetry too.
One of my favourite poems is Seamus Heaney’s ‘Postscript’, but I wouldn’t be able to pick out one line. The whole poem feels like one line, a single flowing thought.
Reviewing is part of my way of living with poetry. I love the moment of committing to writing a review, knowing I’ll read the book closely, over and over, and read around it too. It’s a privilege to give time to thinking deeply about a book and then articulating a written response. I like the challenge of reviewing books I might not otherwise find, as well as books I’d definitely want to read.
I spend time looking out of the window when I’m thinking about writing, or when I’m putting off writing – but I’ve learned this is necessary, so I try not to limit myself!