The book that stands out from my reading this month is Carol Ann Duffy's The Bees.
I loved the variety of subject, tone and pace. Duffy is a poet who looks out at the world. Here you'll find her sharp gaze turned onto politics, ecology, Englishness, mother and daughters, sickness and death, plus, of course those bees.
Why is Duffy so consistently good? For me, what I come back to admire and enjoy is her confident and playful relationship to language. Reading Duffy makes me want to write. She makes ordinary words dance and sing, and makes it seem effortless. She challenges, dazzles. She makes you think, and makes you laugh.
She has a marvellous ear for the way we all play - or used to play as children - with language in everyday speech. Her box of sonic 'tricks' includes alliteration, repetition, lists, simple rhymes surprisingly placed. Often punning and playful but with serious intent. See 'Virgil's Bees.'
The bee poems are threaded throughout as connective tissue, buzzing in and out between the other work. Bees take us back to literary tradtion, 'Where the bee sucks,' and forward to consider the precarious balance of the planet.
Duffy may not have won the T S Eliot Prize but she certainly stole the show at the readings at the Royal Festival Hall earlier this month. In the end what makes Duffy a poet I want to return to is the power and persuasiveness of her voice. She is a dazzling performer, with a brilliant sense of timing. Whether on the page or the stage you trust, have confidence in, her voice, feel her presence.
Hear her talk to Mark Lawson on Front Row about the writing of The Bees.