England: Poems From a School
There is a school in Oxford called Spires Academy where, under the tutelage of writer in residence Kate Clanchy, they make poems. Poems which are concise and subtle, vivid and moving, fluid, arresting, beautiful and often funny. These poets are all young - between the ages of 11 and 18. Most are from an immigrant background. Some are refugees. For the majority, English is not their first language. Their history is of war and displacement, transition and loss, and it has produced an extraordinary creative flowering. It's very difficult to convey in a review the impact of this marvellous book. I don't remember the last time I was so moved by a collection of contemporary poems. If you read it you will taste the mangoes of Bangladesh and the tea of Pakistan. You will hear the house-sparrows of Syria and see the apple trees that grow there. You will also find the grey and damp of English skies, the confusion and chaos of the Cowley Road, You should take this book on holiday. You should give it to your family and to your friends. This book reminded me of what poetry is for, and of the extraordinary things that can happen when cultures meet. A strong contender for my book of the year.