Expert’s view

Lavinia Greenlaw: my five best books

The poet, novelist and non-fiction writer chooses five of her favourite books by female poets

Lavinia Greenlaw

Lavinia Greenlaw’s latest book, the part memoir, part manifesto Some Answers Without Questions (Faber £12.99; The Week Bookshop £9.99), is out now.

The Complete Poems by Emily Dickinson (2016)

So much more than a recluse who wafted about dressed in white, Dickinson wasaradical whose poems are as explosive today as when they were written. She was a modern poet and a scientific one. “That Love is all there is,/ Is all we know of Love;/ It is enough, the freight should be/ Proportioned to the groove.” That’s it, the whole poem, a perfect formula. Faber £20; The Week Bookshop £15.99

The Silvering by Maura Dooley (2016)

A collection of elegiac poems that make us think in new ways about absence. Dooley looks at what happens when we encounter the memory of something or someone lost, and records how those memories are fixed, like photographs, in the “silvering”. The emotions revisited are as fresh and powerful as they were when first felt. Bloodaxe £9.95; The Week Bookshop £7.99

Gloria: Selected Poems by Selima Hill (2008)

This includes Hill’s prize-winning debut The Accumulation of Small Acts of Kindness, the diary of a young psychiatric patient which makes brilliant use of imagery to articulate what cannot be said. One of the great British surrealists. Bloodaxe £12; The Week Bookshop £9.99

How to Wash a Heart by Bhanu Kapil (2020)

An immigrant guest observes what lies behind their host’s generosity. Frank, fierce and calm, these poems insist that we see ourselves more clearly. “The art of crisis/ Is that you no longer/ Think of home/ As a place for social respite./ Instead, it’s a ledge/ Above a narrow canyon.” Pavilion Poetry £9.99; The Week Bookshop £7.99

Selected Poems: 1978- 1994 by Medbh McGuckian (1997)

Another poet whose work I find as unsettling as it is invigorating. There is a tremendous freedom in how McGuckian’s work dispenses with the conventions of description. Her poems are full of colour, music and luscious images. Gallery Press £11.95

Titles in print are available from The Week Bookshop on 020-3176 3835. For out-of-print books visit biblio.co.uk

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