6 Beautifully written Books by British Poets

Claire Handscombe

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If you want to ease into reading poetry, I have some recommendations for you -- some of it straight up poetry, some of it collections sprinkled with verse, and some of it lyrical writing by poets which will train your reading eye to their voices. As always, if any of these books are not readily available in the US, head to Blackwells.com for inexpensive international shipping.

British Museum, by Daljit Nagra

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Daljit Nagra was the Poet in Residence for Radio Four, the British equivalent of NPR. He writes often of the immigrant experience, explores and questions British institutions, and uses language inventively, sometimes echoing the “Punglish” of Indian immigrants to the UK. British Museum is this third collection, and its publisher, Faber Poetry, calls it “a book that asks profound questions of our ethics and responsibilities at a time of great challenge to our sense of national identity”.

Fierce Fairytales, by Nikita Gill

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Nikita Gill is the UK’s answer to Rupi Kaur, another Instapoet with her own collection, Wild Embers, which came out last year. Her follow-up, Fierce Fairytales, reimagines the traditional stories many of us grew up with, blurring lines between heroes and villains, introducing brave princesses, and banishing gender stereotypes.

My Name is Why, by Lemn Sissay

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Imagine being 17 and finding out that your name wasn’t the name you’d been given your whole life. That despite your years with a foster family and then in care homes, your biological mother was alive and well and had desperately wanted you back. Lemn Sissay was the official poet of the London Olympics in 2012, so expect lyricism, beautiful writing, and powerful words in this memoir.

That Reminds Me, by David Owusu

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You might know David Owusu from Mostly Lit, an award-winning podcast that documents the millennial experience and explores the intersection between literature, wellness and pop-culture. In That Reminds Me, he tells the story of a young man, K, in poetic fragments. Benjamin Zephaniah has called this book “a beautiful meditation on childhood, coming of age, the now, and the media”.

The Terrible, by Yrsa Daley-Ward

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This part-poetry, part-verse coming-of-age memoir speaks of life in all its terribleness and all its joy: cruelty, redemption, family, self-discovery, pills and pain and sex and the magic of adolescence. Bustle named it one of “12 most anticipated poetry collections hitting bookstore in 2018” and said: “[Daley-Ward] has become known for spare, sharp, unflinching, and joyous writing. Cannot wait for this one in June.”

The Things I Would Tell You, ed. Sabrina Mahfouz

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Fiction, essays, memoir, poetry, drama: all are present in this eclectic collection which showcases well-known authors alongside emerging writers. They visit Karachi and New York City, explore romantic love and Brexit and a multitude of other places and themes. Adhaf Soueif writes the introduction, and she makes clear that “one of the aims of the anthology is to dispel the narrow image of what a Muslim woman — and particularly a British Muslim woman — looks and lives like”.

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Claire Handscombe is a British writer who moved to Washington, DC, in 2012, ostensibly to study for an MFA in Creative Writing, but really, let’s be honest, because of an obsession with The West Wing. She is the host of the Brit Lit Podcast, a monthly show about news and views from UK books and publishing; the author of Unscripted, a novel about a young woman with a celebrity crush and a determined plan; and the editor of Walk With Us: How The West Wing Changed Our Lives.

Washington, DC

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