Poetry Happening Near You

Recommended poetry book list

Every two years, Poetry on Loan publishes a list of poetry books recommended by library staff. Some of them may be familiar to you; others might not be. Dip into them, or read every book on the list, cover to cover - wither way, there's something here for everyone.

Here is the 2016 list, with reviews written by West Midlands' library staff :


edited by Mark Fisher

In 2016, Ledbury Poetry Festival celebrates its 20th anniversary. Hwaet! (it means Listen! in Anglo-Saxon, and is the opening of Beowulf) is an anthology of poems by 200 poets who have performed at the Festival over the years. There’s something for everyone - poems from round the corner and all over the world; poems from poets who are household names and those you may not have heard of; poems serious, funny, thoughtful, sensational. A magnificent buffet of poems to dip into now and then - although you will find yourself coming back to it until you have tasted it all.

Published by Bloodaxe


Nobody told me: poetry and parenthood

Hollie McNish

Hollie McNish was on her way to her first Glastonbury Festival poetry gig when she found out she was pregnant. Nobody Told Me is a diary of poems and stories written from that day onward: “A diary of all the things / I couldn’t talk about”. Whether she’s breast-feeding her six-month-old daughter in a public toilet, or tackling a ten-hour train journey with a tired two-year-old, Hollie’s writing is honest, direct, witty and moving. This is an engaging read which will appeal to readers who are new to poetry as much as to seasoned poetry fans.

Published by Blackfriars Books


Black Country

Liz Berry

Even people who don’t usually read poetry find themselves drawn into Liz Berry’s world with this collection. The poems can be appreciated on a first reading but with further reading you see how beautifully made they are. Liz Berry doesn’t just write about the industrial past, her poems have contemporary themes – Carmella the hairdresser; the Steam Room; the man who bought a milking pan for a Christmas present.

There is a real feeling in this book that Liz Berry writes from the heart about what is important to her in the language of the people and the places she loves.

Published by Chatto and Windus


Over the moon

Imtiaz Dharker

This is Imtiaz Dharker’s fifth collection, and includes some of her stylishly detailed drawings - a beautifully crafted book of poetry. 

Many of the poems have urban settings, reflecting her cosmopolitan upbringing and her current life. They span a huge range of human emotion and experience - love, loss, hope, memory, staying and leaving, youth and old age. They have a life-affirming theme, and some emphasise the poet's passionate belief in the uplifting strength of women and girls as shining and joyous lights in the world.

A book full of treasure! 

Published by Bloodaxe



Sarah Crossan

This novel written in free verse is the story of conjoined twins Tippi and Grace. All their childhood they have been home-schooled, but now in their teens they have to face the hurdle of going to school for the first time. School brings cruel notes and staring but also friendship and romance. As their family struggles emotionally and financially the twins have to deal with the media and with their possible separation. A beautiful, heart-wrenching book that can be read in one breathless sitting. Recommended for teenagers who think they have problems fitting in and who say they don’t like poetry.

Published by Bloomsbury


The nailmakers’ daughters - poems from the Black Country

Emma Purshouse, Iris Rhodes, Marion Cockin

From Black Country ironwork and factories to ballrooms, tow paths and meadows, these poems resonate with memories and experiences evoking a powerful connection to the past. Accessible, grounded and entirely without pretension, the poems has a strong sense of place, and all three poets describe the region’s landscapes with pride and affection. Many of the poems are written in dialect and sometimes it was as if you can actually hear the voices when you read them. Humorous, poignant, and nostalgic - there is something very comforting about the poems in this collection which leaves you with an overall sense of peace.

Published by Offa’s Press



Jo Bell

Kith is the second collection by Canal Laureate Jo Bell. It promises us “love, sex, boats and friendship” but gives us so much more. This fresh and vibrant collection will make you laugh and cry, and will touch all points in between. The poems are accessible and direct, yet have a curious subtlety, enabling the reader to see the world in a new light. Jo Bell’s deft touch and powerful imagery ensure that you will want to go back to these poems time and time again.

Published by Nine Arches Press


The beautiful librarians

Sean O’Brien

Sean O’Brien’s The Beautiful Librarians collection has a bitter political theme with a sense of nostalgia for the mid-century life. It unapologetically points out the loss of social values and empathy throughout the years. This is truly a book of great variety of theme and form.

Published by Picador


The emergency poet: an anti-stress poetry anthology 

edited by Deborah Alma

This anthology is full of poems skilfully selected by the Emergency Poet, Deborah Alma, from classics to contemporary, to soothe your soul. Whether you are looking for a pick me up or a gentle caress you can find it in this collection.

Published by Michael O’Mara


Loop of jade

Sarah Howe

Winner of the T.S. Eliot Prize 2015

Sarah Howe compares her own life and upbringing with that of her mother, and attempts to understand her dual nationality in a modern multicultural world. Many of the poems are in prose format and they look at traditional Chinese stories which have an element of sadness about them, such as in the poem Tame which considers the Chinese proverb, “It is more profitable to raise geese than daughters,” and puts a twist on it for the modern reader. 

Well worth the effort to discover this new voice in the world of poetry.

Published by Chatto and Windus