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Staff picks January 2022 - Buckets of celery & swords of water

Over-indulged? Try these sweet calorie-free reads, hand-picked by NPL staff

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A Scarcity of Biscuit by John Hegley
(Caldew Press, 2021)

In 2012 – London's Olympic year, lest we forget – John Hegley was researching a sport unrecognised by the International Olympic Committee: celery swordsmanship. This discipline, invented by John Keats, was just one of Hegley's gleanings from his poetical residency at Keats House – a year that forms the basis of this collection. In many ways, it's a tale of two Johns: Hegley's fixations and didn't-see-it-coming rhymes, coupled with Keats's surreal asides and proto-Spinal-Tap-isms ('I do believe if I could be a hatter, I might be one'). All in all, it’s a reminder that, like many other figures saddled with an afterlife as a doomed romantic, Keats was essentially a purveyor of laughter and (Hegleyesque lapse-into-French alert) joie de vivre

—Chosen by Russell Thompson

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How to Carry Water by Lucille Clifton 
(BOA Editions, 2020) 

Lucille Clitfton is one of those poets whose poems astonish me each time I read them. I heard a story that Clifton once gave two poetry readings in a single evening: first to a sold-out audience inside a bookstore in Brooklyn, and later to the queues waiting outside. This captures something of the generosity and expansive beauty of her poetry. In this stunning new edition of selected poems which “in their specificity and dilating scale, startle readers into new sense” (Aracelis Girmay), I discovered a new poem fragment from 1991: “i am accused of tending to the past / as if i made it, / as if i sculpted it / with my own hands. i did not. / this past was waiting for me / when i came”. 

—Chosen by Nina Powles 

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The Granite Pail: the Selected Poems of Lorine Niedecker by Lorine Niedecker
(North Point Press, 1985)

Niedecker's sparse and playful poems are the work of a poet well-attuned to the slower aspects of life. A quiet joy resounds through this collection - reflecting her appreciation of nature and her place within it - and the space on the page around each poem affords the reader plenty of time and silence to absorb the world she paints.

—Chosen by Will René