Women rule poetry

The TLS on the ascendancy of female poets this decade. Huzzah. Bookninja favourite Karen Solie gets a mention here, as is proper.

Only one poet, Tomas Tranströmer, has won the Nobel prize in liteature this past decade, in 2011 – unless you count the troubadour Bob Dylan, in 2016. Patient, devoted scholarship – the labour of love – has given us indispensable Collected or Complete editions of Basil Bunting, Bertolt Brecht, Marianne Moore, T. S. Eliot and Philip Larkin. In the realm of the living there have been, as in any decade, any number of notable achievements by poets young, old and in between, and this includes poets working as translators. But above all else, it has been the decade of women. Throughout it, England’s poet laureate has been Carol Ann Duffy; in Scotland, the Makars have been Liz Lochhead and (since 2016) Jackie Kay; in Wales, the National Poet was, until 2016, Gillian Clarke; Jamaica’s poet laureate since 2017 has been Lorna Goodison (who has just been awarded the Queen’s Gold Medal for Poetry); and in the US the same role has gone to Natasha Trethewey (twice), Tracy K. Smith and Joy Harjo. This signifies. The new Oxford Professor of Poetry is a woman, the ever inventive Alice Oswald. A period that has been quick to acclaim poets as generously (and variously) gifted as Oswald, Karen Solie, Emily Berry, Sarah Howe and Hannah Sullivan can’t be thought entirely lacking in poetic nous. The emergence of Denise Riley’s singular brilliance into “the mainstream” after years of hiding in plain sight should be celebrated anywhere poetry is read.

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