Bloodaxe Books of the Year 2021

Bloodaxe Books of the Year 2021


A God at the Door by Tishani Doshi, shortlisted for the Forward Prize for Best Collection 2021

‘A generous mix of cosmic myth and earthy wit, Tishani Doshi’s fourth collection, A God at the Door, is wise and profound, with the lightest of touches…’ – Rishi Dastidar, The Guardian (Best poetry books of 2021)

A God at the Door brings mixed tidings: responses to harrowing recent events in Indian poet Tishani Doshi’s home country, but also strange disjunctions, offbeat humour, flashes of hope.’ – Tristram Fane Saunders, The Telegraph (Christmas Books, 2021)

'Tishani Doshi’s A God at the Door was this year’s standout poetry collection for me. It’s a rich and fearless extravaganza of a book, outward-looking, engaging with global crises and news stories with passion and panache. These poems go far beyond reportage – each vignette is transformed into an expansive but compressed bomb. Dealing with subjects as wide-ranging as the shooting at a maternity clinic in Kabul, or the iconic photo of a tigress hugging a tree in Manchuria, the results are packed with fury, outrage, and humour. Sometimes the poem resembles the shape of its subject, so that the form on the page is like an exquisitely fired urn containing an explosion.’ – Pascale Petit, Ars Notoria (Poetry Books of the Year 2021)

‘The poets I love with all my heart have new collections this year: Tishani Doshi (A GOD AT THE DOOR, Bloodaxe), Claudia Rankine (JUST US, Penguin) – I feasted on them.’ - Meena Kandasamy, The White Review (Books of the Year, 2021)

‘Tishani Doshi’s A God at the Door blew me away from the first poem… I found it original and utterly compelling.’ - John McCullough, Poetry News (Best poetry books of the year 2021)

'Crisscrossing between the cosmic and the quotidian, Doshi's elegant and unflinching collection shines a dazzling light on the experience of the marginalised.' -  Mark Skinner, Waterstones, (2021's Best Poetry Books for National Poetry Day) on A God at the Door

Pictured in the Poetry School's Poetry Books of 2021 feature of 14 December 2021. See here.


The Kids by Hannah Lowe, Poetry Book Society Choice for Autumn 2021, winner of  the 2021 Costa Poetry Award, shortlisted for the T S Eliot Prize 2021

‘Hannah Lowe’s The Kids, inspired by her time teaching in an inner London sixth form, is a series of sonnets full of joy. The book is generous in its compassion, and in love with the idea of learning, in the classroom and outside it.’ – Rishi Dastidar, The Guardian (Best poetry books of 2021)

'Hannah Lowe's brilliant and entertaining book of sonnets, The Kids, is one of the most humerous and tender collections of recent times.'  - Seán Hewitt, The Irish Times (The year in verse: the best poetry of 2021)

'The Kids by Hannah Lowe. This book reads very much like a labour of love. Anyone who commits to writing, and asks the reader to commit to reading, 66 sonnets has got to have plenty to say. These poems never flinch and the best of them (‘The Only English Kid’, ‘In H&M’, ‘Janine I/II’) leave us caring for the kids as much as she does.' - Carl Tomlinson, Poetry News (Best poetry books of the year 2021)

Pictured in the Poetry School's Poetry Books of 2021 feature of 14 December 2021. See here.


Men Who Feed Pigeons by Selima Hill, shortlisted for the Forward Prize for Best Collection 2021 and the T S Eliot Prize 2021

'Here we are again, at the poets’ Christmas party. Pour yourself a mugful of mulled wine and try not to get stuck in the hallway with the sort of Men Who Feed Pigeons, inimitably skewered in Selima Hill’s bite-sized portraits. “Familiar, inert, he’s like a table,” she writes of one. “Watching him eat brandy snaps, I’m learning/ not to keep expecting to be heard.”' – Tristram Fane Saunders, The Telegraph (Christmas Books, 2021)

‘Poetry in English is more varied now than ever. I love that Selima Hill’s Men Who Feed Pigeons is shortlisted for the T. S. Eliot Prize. Her surreal, surprising lyrics always shed dark illumination on relationships...' - Ruth Padel, Ars Notoria (Poetry Books of the Year 2021)

'Reflecting on various kinds of women's relationships with men with piercing insight, Hill's exuberant volume is filled with uncomfortable truths and startling humour.' -  Mark Skinner, Waterstones (2021's Best Poetry Books for National Poetry Day) on Men Who Feed Pigeons


War of the Beasts and the Animals, translated by Sasha Dugdale, PBS Translation Choice for Spring 2021, shortlisted for the Warwick Prize for Women in Translation 2021

War of the Beasts and the Animals by the Russian poet and writer Maria Stepanova is skilfully translated by Sasha Dugdale, or rather ‘triangulated’ in Dugdale’s words… this selection of her poetry, a first in English, is entrancing in its syncopated rhythms, and inter-textual playfulness.’ – Paul Perry, Sunday Independent (Best poetry books of 2021)

‘Maria Stepanova’s War of the Beasts and the Animals is in equal measures challenging, overpowering and disorientating. This relentless rush of a book gives the intriguing sense that the poetry itself is always one step ahead of the reader. The writing is steeped in fragments of memory and disturbing glimpses of war, woven together in Stepanova’s distinctive voice – a powerful and necessary read.’ – Ben Ray, Poetry News (Best poetry books of the year 2021)

Pictured in the Poetry School's Poetry Books of 2021 feature of 14 December 2021. See here.


Lyonesse by Penelope Shuttle

‘… Penelope Shuttle, in her wonderfully clarifying Lyonesse, paints a picture of mythic lands submerged under seas and the loss, personal and environmental, that follows.’ – Rishi Dastidar, The Guardian (Best poetry books of 2021)

Still by Christopher Meredith (Seren) has been a favourite read too, for its natural calm and beauty… and Lyonesse by Penelope Shuttle for its tales of a real/mythical ancient/modern submerged land with such contemporary enchantment. This publication includes a second ‘book’, New Lamps for Old, which perfectly complements Lyonesse.’ - Lesley Ingram, Poetry News (Best poetry books of the year 2021)


Museum of Ice Cream by Jenna Clake

'There’s a scoop of Kennardishness in Jenna Clake’s Museum of Ice Cream, its humour belying her subject; the toll of an eating disorder.'  – Tristram Fane Saunders, The Telegraph (Christmas Books, 2021)

'Filled with strawberry-flavoured images and sunset-coloured scenes, these poems are luminous and funny, yet aching with painful secrets. Who can resist a title like 'self-portrait as a pink dressing-room' or 'Oyster Delight'?' - Phoebe Power, Poetry News (Best poetry books of 2021), on Museum of Ice Cream


Mother, Nature by Aoife Lyall, Shortlisted for the Scottish First Book Award (Scotland's National Book Awards)

‘Written and edited over the course of three pregnancies, two maternity leaves, and the first lockdown of 2020, Aoife Lyall’s first poetry collection Mother, Nature focuses on pregnancy and the early weeks and months of motherhood.’ – Creative Scotland (Christmas Books)

'Aoife Lyall’s debut collection Mother, Nature explores the tragic and tender experiences of pregnancy and early motherhood, from ante-natal complications and the devastating pain of miscarriage to the overwhelming joy of healthy delivery and healthy infancy.' - Trinity Today (Christmas Must-reads)


The Voyage of St Brendan by A B Jackson, illustrated by Kathleen Neeley

'In The Voyage of St Brendan AB Jackson’s witty four-line stanzas are as miraculous, inventive and swift-moving as the sea-faring saint himself and beautifully matched by Kathleen Neeley’s linocuts.' – Martina Evans, 'The year in verse: the best poetry of 2021', The Irish Times


The Resurrectionists by John Challis

‘Many of the poems in The Resurrectionists by John Challis are situated in the City of London, the West End and East London/Essex borderlands – my own home turf, until recently. These poems are rooted in relationships with family often departed, with old trades and night trading. The cover is brilliant, a photo of men at work in Smithfield’s market. Many poems offer us what this image does: a direct gaze, wit, labour, ghosts and dead meat. The real narrative of a city is not in its architecture, transport, incarcerations or commerce (although all those are here too) but in the flesh and blood – the workers. These are incredibly well-tailored poems, with humanity that acknowledges men’s fears and their cousin vulnerabilities. – Jane Wilkinson, Poetry News (Best poetry books of the year 2021)


Lumen by Tiffany Atkinson, Poetry Book Society Recommendation for Spring 2021

'In Tiffany Atkinson’s Lumen, the poem ‘Accident and Emergency’ from the opening sequence ‘Dolorimeter’ begins: “Anyone claiming that time / is objective deserves a night / in A&E”. The heart-breaking and vividly tangible similes and metaphors in ‘Heroin works’ load up to overwhelm us, as the chronic pain does, here under the spotlight, for a young woman and her family. The book moves from its intense sequence on pain into joyful, sharp, smart poems that wryly monitor and transform the private business of friendship, dogs, food, firewood, work, neighbours and crying into a metaphysical of the quotidian. I love the book’s lustrous vocabulary – think sempiternal, mommet, thurifer – and the particularity of its point of view, which is inquiring, with a ‘what am I really?’ mode of address and a quiet persistence.  A friend of a book.’ – Jane Wilkinson, Poetry News (Best poetry books of the year 2021)

Stone Fruit by Rebecca Perry, Poetry Book Society Recommendation

‘In poetry... I also loved the brilliantly tender STONE FRUIT by Rebecca Perry.’ - Rebecca Tamás, The White Review (Books of the Year, 2021)

Shall We Go? by Annemarie Austin

‘…Austin is intensely local in the best sense. Not because it is tied to a specific landscape, but because whatever she considers passes through heart, intellect and nerves intimately, yet edgily in touch with their objects. Her voice is quiet, subtle but precise. It’s an unusual voice for the times and all the more valuable for that.’ – George Szirtes, Ars Notoria (Poetry Books of the Year 2021)


Wild Creature by the late Joan Margarit, translated by Anna Crowe

‘Technically these are two November releases, but for those of you on the hunt for poetic Christmas presents, look no further. Red Squirrel Press has just released Helen Boden’s A Landscape To Figure In, while Bloodaxe has published a translation of Joan Margarit’s Wild Creature (translated by honorary president of StAnza Festival, Anna Crowe).’ – Bech Cochrane, The Skinny, Scottish Poetry News


Apathy is Out: Selected Poems by Seán Ó Ríordáin, dual language Irish-English edition

‘Greg Delanty’s excellent translation of selected poems by Ó Ríordáin.’ - John Breen, Cork Evening Echo (Christmas Books)



Staying Human: new poems for Staying Alive, edited by Neil Astley, Poetry Book Society Special Commendation for Winter 2020

Recommended on The Poetry Programme on 12 December 2021 - poetry anthologies to buy for Christmas.  Listen here (anthologies are recommended from 25.15).  Editor Neil Astley was interviewed on the programme in February 2021, with readings by some of the many Irish poets included in Staying Human.  Listen to the 21 February episode here.


Ledger by Jane Hirshfield

‘Hirshfield's poems are light, gestural, many have a quality of a bird riding the wind… The poems in this collection concern themselves with a variety of topics including climate change, social justice, the plight of refugees etc. But, more importantly than the subjects of the poems themselves, the book's central thread asks us to reconsider our relationship to the wild, the world, to other people, and how we think about ourselves.’ - Jay Springett, Ignota Books of the Year


Return by Minor Road by Heidi Williamson

'This is a book of remembrance; of trauma and grief. It's a powerful and personal reckoning with the events that took place at a primary school in Dunblane in 1996. But it's also a book of hope, healing and consolation, vividly drawn landscapes, and mirrors and echoes in nature.' - Christopher James, Poetry News (Best poetry books of 2021)


Tiger Girl by Pascale Petit, shortlisted for the Forward Prize for Best Collection 2020 and the Wales Book of the Year 2021 (Poetry)

'The latest poetry collection by UK-based Pascale Petit is Tiger Girl. Here is glowing ecopoetry communing with the creative force of the natural world, its human-wreaked wounds. Yet hers is not only a lament but also a salve that opens us up to Nature... she twines ecological themes with her family’s Indian heritage and harmful relationships.' - Suhit Kelkar, Hindustan Times (Books of the Year 2021)



Mama Amzonica by Pascale Petit, Poetry Book Society Choice, winner of the Ondaatje Prize 2018 and the Laurel Prize 2020, shortlisted for the Roehampton Poetry Prize 2018

‘The tension of lyric and narrative are well balanced. Pascale Petit’s Mama Amazonica is so good I bought it twice. Pascale is a grand master. She often deals with taboo subject matter, simultaneously transposing it onto the natural world. Or perhaps more accurately: she brings our awareness to the natural world that is all around us. Whether using animals or plants, her strength lies in expanding the reader’s emotional palette.’ – Nick Makoha, Poetry News (Best poetry books of the year 2021)

[14 December 2021]

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