Books of the Year Recommendations

15 12 2018

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From The Lonely Crowd’s trio of articles on their contributor’s books of the year, here’s my recommended reading material from 2018:

The full article can be read at:

The Lonely Crowd: Books of the Year (part 2)

Unless it really can’t be helped, I prefer to concentrate on one book at a time.  Yet, at one point this summer, I had five books open simultaneously on my bedside table.  I was fortunate to be able to interview Jonathan Edwards, Andrew McMIllan and Christopher Meredith for Lonely Crowd projects and their writing, together with poetry collections by Ocean Vuong and Bernard O’Donoghue, formed my first non-linear reading experiment. In one burst, I’d read compelling story from Meredith’s Seren collection Brief Lives and the dense, lyrical prose would make me question the seeds of bravery in an acts of cowardice; then, I’d gather up Jonathan Edwards’ second collection, Gen, and absorb myself utterly in the sustained warmth of his portraiture: Harry Houdini and Edwards’ granddad in the same scene on Newport Bridge performing different magic tricks.  There was a poem in Bernard O’Donoghue’s The Seasons of Cullen Church‘You Know the Way’ that I read habitually for a fortnight.  The narrative sprang from title into a set of directions centred on familiar global places – New York, London, Dublin – but it was the clever demotic tone – imperative, declarative and interrogative all at once – at that reassured me I could re-visit it and walk those routes ceaselessly.
Ocean Vuong’s Night Sky with Exit Wounds is the singular, most-impressive collection of verse I have read.  I could eulogise it and investigate it endlessly and would urge all poetry readers to do likewise; however, as it was published in 2016 and the internet is already rich with reviews of Vuong, I’ll state that McMillan’s Playtime is my selection as Book of 2018. Because McMillan’s verse appears so differently on the page – at times it appeared a vacuum of punctuation – the collection demanded to be approached differently from other poetry; I began to read poems aloud rather than whisper them, or internalise their sounds. Because the topics were so intimate, the themes so urgent, poems exploring homosexuality transformed in poems simply exploring sexuality; then they became like the very best poems, exploring something new. Because McMillan’s ‘I’ was vulnerable, aggressive, elusive, flawed and heroic, his first-person narrative voice could transposed into the multifarious mouths of many speakers.  And, because of all this, Playtime became not just the ideal parallel to be read alongside other books, but a method of seeing each of them anew. I think Night Sky with Exit Wounds will the book that resides on my bedside table through 2019 also, yet without Playtime, I may never have shaped the precise need for it.
Glyn Edward’s debut poetry collection will be published by The Lonely Press in early 2019.

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