Essential Poems from the Staying Alive Trilogy

BOOK: Essential Poems from the Staying Alive Trilogy
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ESSENTIAL POEMS

FROM THE

STAYING ALIVE TRILOGY

 

Staying Alive, Being Alive
and
Being Human
have introduced many thousands of new readers to contemporary poetry, and have helped poetry lovers to discover the little known riches of world poetry.

 

Each anthology in the
Staying Alive
trilogy has 500 poems to touch the heart, stir the mind and fire the spirit. These books have been enormously popular with readers, especially as gift books and bedside companions. The poems – by writers from many parts of the world – have emotional power, intellectual edge and playful wit.

 

This new pocketbook selection of 100 essential poems from the trilogy is a
Staying Alive
travel companion. As well as selecting favourite poems from the trilogy – readers’ and writers’ choices as well as his own favourites – editor Neil Astley provides background notes on the poets and poems.

 

These essential poems are all about being human, being alive and staying alive: about love and loss; fear and longing; hurt and wonder; war and death; grief and suffering; birth, growing up and family; time, ageing and mortality; memory, self and identity…all of human life in a hundred highly individual, universal poems.

 


Staying Alive
is a magnificent anthology. The last time I was so excited, engaged and enthralled by a collection of poems was when I first encountered
The Rattle Bag
. I can’t think of any other anthology that casts its net so widely, or one that has introduced me to so many vivid and memorable poems’ –
PHILIP PULLMAN
 

 

‘I love
Staying Alive
and keep going back to it.
Being Alive
is just as vivid, strongly present and equally beautifully organised. But this new book feels even more alive – I think it has a heartbeat, or maybe that’s my own thrum humming along with the music of these poets. Sitting alone in a room with these poems is to be assured that you are not alone, you are not crazy (or if you are, you’re not the only one who thinks this way!) I run home to this book to argue with it, find solace in it, to locate myself in the world again’ –
MERYL STREEP
 

 


Being Human
is…a poetic Babel, a library in one volume’ –
ALAN TAYLOR
,
The Herald
(Scotland)

 

‘When you choose your book for
Desert Island Discs
, this should be it.
Staying Alive
proves that poetry is the most sustaining and life-affirming of literary forms. A triumph’ –
HELENA KENNEDY
 

 

‘The book I’d like to take is called
Staying Alive
…it is 500 wonderful poems… I can learn them off by heart…also I think they will sustain me emotionally while I’m there’ –
ANNA FORD
on
Desert Island Discs

 


Staying Alive
is a book which leaves those who have read or heard a poem from it feeling less alone and more alive. Its effect is deeply political – in a way that nobody ten years ago could have foreseen. Why? The 500 poems in it are not political as such. But they have become subversive because they contest the way the world is being (and has been) manipulated and spoken about. They refuse the lies, the arrogant complacencies, the weak-kneed evasions. They offer 500 examples of resistance’ –
JOHN BERGER
 

 

‘Neil Astley’s indispensable, endlessly surprising trilogy… The newest and last of these [
Being Human
] contains all the manifold virtues of the earlier two: another startlingly varied, unexpected and entirely accessible collection of contemporary poems – 500 per volume, no small undertaking – exploring the stuff of life, what Louis MacNeice called “
this mad weir of tigerish waters
/
A prism of delight and pain
”’ –
CATHERINE LOCKERBIE
,
The Scotsman

 

‘Usually if you say a book is “inspirational” that means it’s New Agey and soft at the center. This astonishingly rich anthology, by contrast, shows that what is edgy, authentic and provocative can also awaken the spirit and make its readers quick with consciousness. In these pages I discovered many new writers, and I’ve decided I’m now in love with our troublesome epoch if it can produce poems of such genius’ –
EDMUND WHITE
 

 

‘Staying Alive
is a blessing of a book. The title says it all. I have long waited for just this kind of setting down of poems – and the way they work together is wonderful – all come together to talk at the same table. Has there ever been such a passionate anthology? These are poems that hunt you down with the solace of their recognition’ –
ANNE MICHAELS
 

 

‘A book that travels everywhere with me…It is full of beautiful writing that can blow your mind’ –
BETH ORTON
on
Staying Alive
 

 

‘Hopefully, books like this will put poetry back into the mainstream’ –
VAN MORRISON
on
Being Alive
 

 

Cover photograph:
Mariona
(1988) by Carles Fargas 

ESSENTIAL POEMS
FROM THE
STAYING ALIVE TRILOGY

edited by
NEIL ASTLEY

CONTENTS

Title Page

INTRODUCTION
Neil Astley

 

Wild Geese
Mary Oliver

from
Shape of Time
Doris Kareva

The Guest House
Rumi

‘To be great, be whole…’
Fernando Pessoa

Living
Denise Levertov

Table
Edip Cansever

Second-Hand Coat
Ruth Stone

Could Have
Wisława Szymborska

Dawn Revisited
Rita Dove

The door
Miroslav Holub

Otherwise
Jane Kenyon

Harlem [2]
Langston Hughes

Archaic Torso of Apollo
Rainer Maria Rilke

The Journey
Mary Oliver

Lying in a Hammock at William Duffy’s Farm in Pine Island, Minnesota
James Wright

Temptation
Nina Cassian

Begin
Brendan Kennelly

As I Go
Julius Chingono

Ithaka
C.P. Cavafy

The Layers
Stanley Kunitz

The Road Not Taken
Robert Frost

The Way It Is
William Stafford

I drew a line
Toon Tellegen

Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening
Robert Frost

Migratory
Mark Doty

Alone
Tomas Tranströmer

Encounter
Czesław Mi
ł
osz

At the Fishhouses
Elizabeth Bishop

Snow
Louis MacNeice

A Disused Shed in Co. Wexford
Derek Mahon

Unwittingly
John Burnside

The Girl
Lars Gustafsson

Being the third song of Urias
Ken Smith

Starlight
Philip Levine

FROM
Clearances
Seamus Heaney

Poem for a Daughter
Anne Stevenson

Love
Kate Clanchy

The Victory
Anne Stevenson

She Leaves Me
Anna T. Szabó

A Little Tooth
Thomas Lux

After Making Love We Hear Footsteps
Galway Kinnell

Great Things Have Happened
Alden Nowlan

This Hour
Sharon Olds

Snow Melting
Gjertrud Schnackenberg

Wild strawberries
Helen Dunmore

Strawberries
Edwin Morgan

For Desire
Kim Addonizio

You Don’t Know What Love Is
Kim Addonizio

Atlas
U.A. Fanthorpe

Love Song: I and Thou
Alan Dugan

Wedding
Alice Oswald

An Arundel Tomb
Philip Larkin

Love After Love
Derek Walcott

Missing God
Dennis O’Driscoll

Sheep Fair Day
Kerry Hardie

from
Of Gravity and light
John Burnside

The Bright Field
R.S. Thomas

Stationery
Agha Shahid Ali

The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock
T.S. Eliot

A Confession
Czesław Miłosz

O Taste and See
Denise Levertov

From Blossoms
Li-Young Lee

The Simple Truth
Philip Levine

Sweetness, Always
Pablo Neruda

Happiness
Jane Kenyon

Trio
Edwin Morgan

The Present
Michael Donaghy

‘The washing never gets done…’
Jaan Kaplinski

A Man in His Life
Yehuda Amichai

Entirely
Louis MacNeice

An Absolutely Ordinary Rainbow
Les Murray

Kindness
Naomi Shihab Nye

One Art
Elizabeth Bishop

Nothing Is Lost
Dana Gioia

The Weighing
Jane Hirshfield

Burlap Sack
Jane Hirshfield

Silence
Mourid Barghouti

A Brief for the Defense
Jack Gilbert

Musée des Beaux Arts
W.H. Auden

The fly
Miroslav Holub

The Place Where We Are Right
Yehuda Amichai

The Diameter of the Bomb
Yehuda Amichai

September Song
Geoffrey Hill

All of These People
Michael Longley

The Red and the Black
Norman MacCaig

Try to Praise the Mutilated World
Adam Zagajewski

Sweetness
Stephen Dunn

Though There Are Torturers
Michael Coady

It’s This Way
Nâzim Hikmet

Hijab Scene #7
Mohja Kahf

They’ll say, ‘She must be from another country’
Imtiaz Dharker

Aubade
Philip Larkin

Common and Particular
David Constantine

Funeral Blues
W.H. Auden

Memorial
Norman MacCaig

Darling
Jackie Kay

Eden Rock
Charles Causley

Gravy
Raymond Carver

Prayer
Arundhathi Subramaniam

FROM
Four Quartets
T.S. Eliot

Postscript
Seamus Heaney

Late Fragment
Raymond Carver

 

NOTES ON POEMS AND POETS

ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS

INDEX OF WRITERS

INDEX OF TITLES

About the Author

Copyright

BOOK: Essential Poems from the Staying Alive Trilogy
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