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Geoffrey Grigson’s Selected Poems

Contraflow – selected as a Poetry Book of the Year in both the Guardian and Sunday Times – takes a completely new approach to the vexed question of Englishness by presenting some of the best poetry on the subject from the 1920s to the 2020s. It contains work by almost 130 poets from Britain and beyond – including Ingeborg Bachmann, Joseph Brodsky, Seamus Heaney, Sylvia Plath, Wole Soyinka, Muriel Spark – and brief notes are provided on them all. In this stimulating and entertaining anthology, Gardner and Greening have set two poetic currents flowing against each other, so that different decades merge. Louis MacNeice in the 1930s meets Zaffar Kunial and Liz Berry in the Midlands of the 2010s. Philip Larkin on a train from Hull to London one Whitsun weekend in the 1960s runs into Derek Walcott, Alison Brackenbury, Wendy Cope,  Jack Mapanje and Kit Wright in the 1980s. The section headings (Country, Divide, Keep Calm, All Change, And be Merry, Recessional, Rebellion, Securities, Visionary, Power, Endgame) reveal many quite unexpected poems and all manner of neglected poets.  What emerges is an extraordinary mosaic of poetic responses to English history, culture and landscape – satirical, visionary, lyrical, comic, political, meditative – yet one which offers a recognisable picture of a land both united and divided through a hundred years. This important and timely new anthology opens with an informal Conversation between the editors – one British, one American – about the nature of Englishness.
See Contraflow – Renard Press.

Reviews of Contraflow:

“the 127 poets represented here provide a rich and varied commentary on Englishness, and it was so rewarding dipping into well known and not-so-known poets whose views of this notion of Englishness were challenging and entertaining […] a thoughtful collection which has had me chasing up the work of poets I would probably never have encountered” 
The Betjeman Society Newsletter

“All credit to Greening, Gardner and Renard for creating this rather beautiful book, with its art-deco-inspired cover, quality paper, and some peachy poems within.”
Hilary Menos, The Friday Poem



Geoffrey Grigson’s Selected Poems

The ‘country house poem’ was born in the seventeenth century as a fruitful way of flattering potential patrons. But the genre’s popularity faded – ironically, just as ‘country house society’ was emerging. It was only when the power and influence of the landed classes had all but ebbed away that poets returned to the theme, attracted perhaps by the buildings’ irresistible dereliction, but equally by their often very personal histories. This is the first complete anthology of modern country house poems, and it shows just how far (as Simon Jenkins points out in his foreword) poems can ‘penetrate the souls of buildings’. Over 160 distinguished poets representing a diversity of class, race, gender, and generation offer fascinating perspectives on stately exteriors and interiors, gardens both wild and cultivated, crumbling ruins and the extraordinary secrets they hide.  There are voices of all kinds, whether it’s Edith Sitwell recalling her childhood, W.B.Yeats  and Wendy Cope pondering Lissadell, or Simon Armitage’s labourer confronting the Lady who’s ‘got the lot’. We hear from noble landowners and loyal (or rebellious) servants, and from many an inquisitive day-tripper. The book’s dominant note is elegiac, yet comedy, satire, even strains of Gothic can be heard among these potent reflections. Hollow Palaces reminds us how poets can often be the most perceptive of guides to radical changes in society.



Geoffrey Grigson’s Selected Poems

You only need think how many words we’ve collected for waste, junk, scrap, refuse, litter, landfill, trash to realise how central rubbish is to our lives. And poets have been writing rubbish poems – in the best sense – since long before Cowper sang the praises of his compost heap. This gift anthology (edited by John Greening, his second for Candlestick) explores the rich pickings to be found among poems on the subject. 



Geoffrey Grigson’s Selected Poems

This is the first Selected edition from the work of this celebrated Lewis poet for over thirty-five years, and since the New Collected (2011) his poetry has rather drifted out of focus. Deer on the High Hills (the title comes from his celebrated long poem) attempts to reposition Iain Crichton Smith as a less exclusively Scottish figure, rather as a writer of European scope. The new book follows the trajectory of the earlier Carcanet Selected, but also brings to light some poems that this remarkably prolific poet had tended to sideline, and includes many previously uncollected. There is a full representation of his later, less familiar work, but the editor has tried to make a manageable and varied introduction for new readers, taking into account current tastes while not overlooking certain much anthologised favourites.

John Greening writes: ‘While respecting the poet-editor’s judgment, the way he ensured there was a balance of light and dark, I have tried to bring a fresh (not necessarily Scottish) perspective for those who feel they already have the measure of Iain Crichton Smith, while maintaining some sort of chronology. My intention was to bring out certain facets he kept in the shadows, as well as highlighting the experimental late work, the broader reach, the more international outlook.’

Read the blog: Iain Crichton Smith’s ‘New Music’: John Greening | The Carcanet Blog

Learn about Iain Crichton Smith: Meet The Author: John Greening discusses Deer on the High Hills - YouTube

Watch the launch: Iain Crichton Smith: Deer on the High Hills, edited by John Greening: Online Book Launch - YouTube



Geoffrey Grigson’s Selected Poems

Sheds have come a long way since the man-cave cliché. These days, a shed is a far more democratic place – somewhere that symbolises the privacy and space that we all need. This anthology explores sheds from every imaginable angle. The poems take us to a child’s hiding place, a treasury of exotic implements and rich aromas and a retreat in which to remember the past. Derek Mahon’s fêted poem ‘A Disused Shed in Co. Wexford’ creates a mysterious inner world which seems to exist outside time. A shed may just be a place to keep the lawnmower, or it may be somewhere to escape to in order to write or paint. Sometimes it’s a haven in which to daydream when the house is full of noise and bustle. Elsewhere it’s:
A sea-side arbour, a garden shanty,
knocked together out of driftwood and furnished
with a beat-up sofa…
  from ‘Arbour’ by Kathleen Jamie

This enchanting selection leads the reader quietly into private worlds and makes the perfect gift for every shed-lover.
Poems by Fleur Adcock, Alison Brackenbury, John Greening, Stuart Henson, Kathleen Jamie, Derek Mahon, John McAuliffe, MR Peacocke, Carol Rumens, Vernon Scannell. Cover illustration by David&Rews.


Geoffrey Grigson’s Selected Poems

GEOFFREY GRIGSON (1905-1985 ) was for many years a vital figure in the literary life of Britain. A controversial and notoriously unsparing reviewer, he edited the journal New Verse which brought W.H.Auden and other writers of the 1930s to prominence.  His encyclopaedic knowledge of poetry and poets made him an anthologist of unrivalled scope and originality, and he was an early champion of once neglected figures such as John Clare and Ivor Gurney. He wrote authoritatively about Samuel Palmer and other artists, too. But he was most popular as a writer on the countryside, with works such as The Englishman’s Flora, his various Shell Guides, and articles for Country Life finding him a wide readership.

For much of his life Geoffrey Grigson was writing (as well as writing about) poetry, but it was only when he was in his sixties that this considerable body of work attracted much attention. Late in life he found advocates as diverse as Jeremy Hooker, Tom Paulin, Peter Reading, Peter Scupham, and Anne Stevenson, who praised his ‘purity of vision’ and ‘bell-like clarity of wisdom’.  However, the Collected Poems by which he chose to be remembered only represents the years from 1963 to 1980, and three subsequent individual volumes, which received considerable acclaim and Poetry Book Society awards, remained uncollected. 

This new selection draws on poetry from Grigson’s debut collection in 1939 up to his very last poem written in September 1985. It represents the full range of his work, notably the love poems, the satires, the landscapes and sketches of rural life, and the many autobiograpical pieces. Here are fascinating glimpses and snapshots and meditations and squibs from this irascible Cornishman, this seventh son, who lost all his brothers before he was middle-aged, who was married three times (finally to the cookery writer, Jane Grigson), who knew most of the famous poets of his day, who was friendly with artists such as Ben Nicholson, Henry Moore, John Piper, who was quintessentially English yet was devoted to France and to the idea of Europe, who lived through two world wars, and endured many more purely literary feuds – including a notorious bust-up with Roy Campbell. 

Now the smoke has had time to clear, what remains is Geoffrey Grigson’s poetry – sharp, economical, by turns lyrical or barbed, restlessly attentive to the physical world, its delights and its terrors.

Grigson’s Selected Poems is available Autumn 2017 from Greenwich Exchange


john greening Accompanied Voices


ACCOMPANIED VOICES is a unique book: not only is it a highly readable anthology of some of the most memorable and accessible international writing about classical music, and a moving commentary by one set of practising artists on the work of another. It is also something of a chronological guide to the great composers, following the story of western music in the language which comes closest to music itself poetry.


Readers unaccustomed to poetry anthologies will find in ACCOMPANIED VOICES the same pleasure that they might find in simply putting on a CD and listening. Every page brings something unexpected or illuminating, funny or heartbreaking. Here we begin to realise just how much Ted Hughes or R.S.Thomas took from Beethoven, or what Bach meant to First World War veteran Ivor Gurney or Holocaust survivor Lotte Kramer. We meet poets who have long been exploring classical music (Peter Porter, John Fuller) or are musicians themselves (Fiona Sampson, Gwen Harwood). We hear Ronald Duncan on Britten, George Mackay Brown on Peter Maxwell Davies. But there is Norman Nicholson on Grieg, too, Jo Shapcott on Schoenberg, Dannie Abse on Wagner; the poetry of a former Archbishop as well as that of a former Poet Laureate.


Poet and music lover John Greening adds a substantial introduction and detailed notes on the work of well over a hundred distinguished poets and their subjects.


Further details: