Poem: ‘The Sea is History’ – Derek Walcott

This poem is the most brilliant marriage of startling imagery, original form, history and reclamation I have ever read.

Poem: ‘Deceptions’ by Philip Larkin

I read this for the first time when I was in my teens and I loved that the poet dared to show sympathy for a clearly unsympathetic character. It seems to say ‘what goes around comes around’ in the most beautifully poetic and simple way possible. I think it is still quietly shocking.

Poem: ‘My Last Duchess’ by Robert Browning

Again, I read this first as a teenager and I think it will also be incredibly important to me because it showed that a poem can have all of the power of a novel packed into very few words. I love the way evil seems to drift off the page; and that the late duchess is such a clearly-drawn character. I also love that we get a very clear sense of what will happen in the future.

Poem: ‘Shoulda Been Jimi Savannah’ by Patricia Smith

I love so much of this poet’s work but this poem is particularly powerful for me because it has at it’s heart a mother/daughter relationship (of great interest to me in my own writing).
I think the images and the absolute confidence in terms of language and form are enviable.

Poem: ‘Saturn’ by Sharon Olds

I read this poem for the first time a few months ago (in a collection called ‘The Gold Cell’) and was bowled over by the brilliance of it. In describing a very every day scene with a father, the poet manages to destroy any sense that patriarchy could possibly be a good idea!

Jenny Mitchell is joint winner of the Geoff Stevens Memorial Poetry Prize. A debut collection, ‘Her Lost Language’, is published by Indigo Dreams Publishing.

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