Great Reads: Poets

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I absolutely love reading poetry, and being a poet myself it would be silly not to love them. For me, poetry is as good as reading a short story, as whatever you’re doing, whether you’re snuggled in bed or on the tube to work, there is always time for a poem. Poems are bite sized chunks of emotions, with the ability to make you feel grounded at any time during the day. Below, I’ve listed some of the poets I think are great!

Sylvia Plath

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Sylvia Plath is not only the most famous female poet on the planet, she’s also the most famous poet, period. Born in Boston, MA, she was diagnosed and sort treatment for depression, which inspired her to write her only novel The Bell Jar as well as many poems that were published in the eight anthologies she penned. Her most famous is Ariel that was published after her death by suicide. One of my absolute favourites from her collection is a poem titled Mrs Drake Proceeds to Supper, which you can find in her Selected Poems anthology, edited by her husband Ted Hughes.

Charles Bukowski

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Another poet that struggled with mental health, and alcohol addiction, was Charles Bukowski, who’s dirty realism of life in Los Angeles was captured perfectly in his poems and novels. In 1986, Time Magazine called Bukowski the “laureate of American lowlife”, which seems to perfectly resemble not only Bukowski’s outlook on life but also the tone in which he wrote. In 1962, the love of his life, Jane, died, which resulted in a lot of poetry as a way for Bukowski to cope with the bereavement. Like Plath, Bukowski also wrote an autobiographical novel about his life in the American Postal Service, aptly titled Post Office. One of my favourite poems that Bukowski wrote is a short and simple one titled Dark Night Poem. They say nothing is wasted / either that / or it all is.

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Another Massachusetts born poet is Edward Estlin Cummings, who was better known by his pen name ee cummings, and styled as such in most of his publications. Cummings is known for his unique style, abandoning any structure through favour of fluidity. He also wrote an autobiographical novel in 1922 titled The Enormous Room about his experience of being imprisoned in France during World War I. Throughout his life time, Cummings wrote approximately 3,000 poems most of which were chronicled in anthologies. One of my personal favourites from his collection comes from the selected poems of 1923-1958 anthology which begins “if there are any heavens…”

Carol Ann Duffy

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Moving onto one of the more contemporary poets on the list, we have the current Poet Laureate, Carol Ann Duffy. I first was exposed to Duffy’s writing at school when studying for my GCSEs where I read and loved her poems on Anne Hathaway and Miss Havisham, but many years later I found a second-hand anthology called The Kingfisher Book of Poems about Love where I was blown away by her poem titled Words, Wide Night. Lets just say, there is a reason Duffy is the Laureate of Poetry.

Roald Dahl

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Roald Dahl is the pioneer of children’s literature, having written seventeen books over his lifetime. He also wrote two poetry anthologies for children, one titled Revolting Rhymes, which gave a new spin on original fairy tales like Cinderella and Little Red Riding Hood. The other anthology was called Dirty Beasts, and in true Dahl fashion, made us feel sick to our stomaches in a way only Roald Dahl could achieve.

So there we have it. Here is the top five list of poets I think really are worth reading. Are any of these poets in your favourites list? Or do you have a recommendation for me to get my teeth into? Let me know in the comments!

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Great Reads: Classics

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The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath

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Sylvia Plath masterfully draws the reader into Esther’s breakdown with such intensity that Esther’s insanity becomes completely real and even rational, as probable and accessible an experience as going to the movies. Such deep penetration into the dark and harrowing corners of the psyche is an extraordinary accomplishment and has made The Bell Jar a haunting American classic. – from Goodreads.com

Not only one of my favourite classics, but also one of my favourite books of all time. I really, really recommend this book to anyone looking for a master class in writing, and also the representation of mental health in literature.

The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald

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A portrait of the Jazz Age in all of its decadence and excess, Gatsby captured the spirit of the author’s generation and earned itself a permanent place in American mythology. Self-made, self-invented millionaire Jay Gatsby embodies some of Fitzgerald’s–and his country’s–most abiding obsessions: money, ambition, greed and the promise of new beginnings. – from Goodreads.com

I never studied The Great Gatsby but I wish I did. Scott Fitzgerald’s well known novel is ripe with metaphor, imagery and symbolism which makes the whole reading process that much more enjoyable.

And The Hippos Were Boiled in Their Tanks by William S Burroughs and Jack Kerouac

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This is a hardboiled crime novel, and a true story. In 1944, Jack Kerouac and William Burroughs, then still unknown writers, were both arrested following a murder: one of their friends had stabbed another and then come to them for advice – neither had told the police. Later they wrote this fictionalised account of that summer – of a group of friends in wartime New York, moving through each other’s apartments, drinking, necking, talking and taking drugs and haphazardly drifting towards a bloody crime. – from Goodreads.com

This was the book that inspired one of my all-time favourite films Kill Your Darlings, which fictionalised the murder of David Kammerer. This book, and the film, provides so much more context to the Beat Generation and the writers who created some of their most prolific work in this era.

Girl, Interrupted by Susanna Kaysen

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In 1967, after a session with a psychiatrist she’d never seen before, eighteen-year-old Susanna Kaysen was put in a taxi and sent to McLean Hospital. She spent most of the next two years on the ward for teenage girls in a psychiatric hospital as renowned for its famous clientele — Sylvia Plath, Robert Lowell, James Taylor, and Ray Charles — as for its progressive methods of treating those who could afford its sanctuary. – from Goodreads.com

Kaysen’s memoir is similar to that of Sylvia Plath’s The Bell Jar, which is probably the reason why I love it so much. Kaysen spent two years in a psychiatric hospital and goes into a lot of detail about her life there which makes the piece incredibly fascinating.

The Virgin Suicides by Jeffrey Eugenides

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The shocking thing about the five Lisbon sisters was how nearly normal they seemed when their mother let them out for the one and only date of their lives. Twenty years on, their enigmatic personalities are embalmed in the memories of the boys who worshipped them and who now recall their shared adolescence: the brassiere draped over a crucifix belonging to the promiscuous Lux; the sisters’ breathtaking appearance on the night of the dance; and the sultry, sleepy street across which they watched a family disintegrate and fragile lives disappear. – from Goodreads.com

The tale of the Lisbon sisters is a tragic one, but fascinating to read none the less. I love how the story is told through the romanticised eyes of the boys that lusted after them. It’s such a unique device that really makes the book stand out.

So these are my recommendations for classic books, if you’re looking to expand your library more. Have you got any favourites you would like to recommend to me? Or have I missed out a few on your list? Let me know in the comments!

Bookish Places to Visit in England

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I love travelling as it is, but what I love more than that is travelling to places of literary interest. London is a great place to begin, it being the capital and all, especially as there are so many blue plaques to find. But there are many more places outside of London that you can visit. Here are a few I hope to get to in the near future.

Oxford

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Oxford is probably one of the most literary places in England! The origins of CS Lewis, JRR Tolkien, and even Lewis Carroll who attended Christ Church College. You might be aware of the famous Inklings who, together with Lewis and Tolkien, met often at the Eagle and Child pub to share their work. To top it off, even a few scenes of Harry Potter were filmed around the city.

Yorkshire

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Yorkshire is world-famous in particular for the Bronte family. Charlotte, Emily and Anne were three sisters who wrote some of the most prolific and well-loved classics, and they lived with the rest of their family in Haworth, a small town not too far from Leeds where their father was the priest there. Another noteworthy literary site is the burial place of Sylvia Plath in Heptonstall, which also resides not too far from Leeds.

Edinburgh

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I didn’t realise that Edinburgh was as literary as it is, but in fact, it is very literary! Arthur Conan Doyle was born and raised here, in 11 Picardy Place, where there is a Sherlock Holmes memorial statue and the Conan Doyle Pub to celebrate the writer’s life. JK Rowling also wrote the majority of the first few Harry Potter books in and around Edinburgh. The Elephant House Cafe boasts that it housed the writer as she was drafting the famous Potter books.

Dublin

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Dublin is home to many, many literary greats! Oscar Wilde, Bram Stoker and James Joyce to name a few! It’s picturesque and hygge aesthetic is enough to set any blogger’s and book lover’s hearts alight! Joyce even based a short story anthology around the city he loved so dearly, titled Dubliners. If you’re looking for a bit more information on Dublin Writers History, there’s even a Writer’s Museum to get you clued up.

Devon

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In particular for fans of Agatha Christie, whose holiday home Greenway is now owned and maintained by the National Trust and well worth a visit if you’re a hardcore fan. Devon was also home to Sylvia Plath’s husband Ted Hughes, and was also the setting and inspiration for the popular Sherlock Holmes novel The Hound of the Baskervilles.

These five places are on top of my literary bucket list, and hopefully after this post, they’ll be on yours too. Is there anywhere you’d like to go and visit? Literary or otherwise? Let me know in the comments!

Top 10 Books of 2016 (7&8)

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Cracking on with books 7 and 8, both of these are actually modern classics that I got around to reading for the first time, both of which were made into critically acclaimed movies in 1999!

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The Virgin Suicides by Jeffrey Eugenides

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The shocking thing about the five Lisbon sisters was how nearly normal they seemed when their mother let them out for the one and only date of their lives. Twenty years on, their enigmatic personalities are embalmed in the memories of the boys who worshipped them and who now recall their shared adolescence: the brassiere draped over a crucifix belonging to the promiscuous Lux; the sisters’ breathtaking appearance on the night of the dance; and the sultry, sleepy street across which they watched a family disintegrate and fragile lives disappear. – from Goodreads.com

Morbid yes, but what I loved about this classic was the overall tone and the atmosphere of the novel. I also enjoyed the narration too… oh who am I kidding? I loved all of it!

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Girl, Interrupted by Susanna Kaysen

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In 1967, after a session with a psychiatrist she’d never seen before, eighteen-year-old Susanna Kaysen was put in a taxi and sent to McLean Hospital. She spent most of the next two years on the ward for teenage girls in a psychiatric hospital as renowned for its famous clientele — Sylvia Plath, Robert Lowell, James Taylor, and Ray Charles — as for its progressive methods of treating those who could afford its sanctuary. – from Goodreads.com

Girl Interrupted is reminiscent of Plath’s The Bell Jar, and similar to both Plath and Eugenides, Kaysen employs wonderful narration, tone and atmosphere into her memior, which makes it an irresistible read.

Tomorrow we’ll be looking at books number six and five – the two that landed just outside of my top five of this year. Have you read either of these books before? Or seen the movies? Let me know in the comments!

Top 15 Favourite Books

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At the age of (almost) 25, I have read a lot of books. I have read books I’ve loved, books I’ve hated, books that left me feeling ‘meh’, and books that I’ve abandoned. In my first quarter of a century, I’ve accumulated many books that I declare among my favourites, but these are the fifteen most loved ones that I want to share with you.

These books are in no particular order.

1

The Chronicles of Narnia by CS Lewis

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I’m seven years old, accompanying Lucy Pevensie through the wardrobe and into the Western Wood. I try to reason with Edmund as we walk towards the Witch’s castle. I sharpen my blade with Peter as we prepare for battle, and I fight alongside Susan, shooting my arrow through the hearts of Narnian traitors. As I grow older, I ride alongside Shasta and Aravis as we made the journey across the desert into Archenland. I’ll see Narnia come to life, hearing the sweet sound of Aslan’s song, singing the world into creation with Digory and Polly.

2

The Harry Potter Series by JK Rowling

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I’m eleven years old, getting my Hogwarts letter with Harry in the cupboard under the stairs. We get the train together at 11 o’clock on the 1st September, and meet Ron and Hermione along the way. I defeat Voldemort with Harry, once, twice and three times. I escape to the Burrow with the Weasley’s way too often, and tag along to the Quidditch World Cup. I stand by Harry through the rise of Voldemort and fight along side him in the Battle of Hogwarts.

3

Looking for Alaska by John Green

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It’s 2011 and I’m in Treehugger Dan’s bookshop in Budapest, Hungary. I’m 19 years old, nearly no longer a teenager, my childhood soon to be over, marked by an epic InterRail experience before university. I’m in the sale section, I see a book called Looking for Alaska by John Green for 200F, equivalent to about 50p. What draws me in is… well, everything about it. I buy it and head back to my hostel, a cute, quirky loft converted from an old town house. I sit in the bay window and devour Looking for Alaska in one sitting. I realise why I want to be a writer. I realise that grief will never leave me. I continue to seek my Great Perhaps.

4

The Phantom of Manhattan by Frederick Forsyth

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I have now “become” an adult. I’m twenty years old. I’m in my first semester of university and I have just been exposed to The Phantom of the Opera and Les Miserables, both of which I’ve read. Somewhere online, I find that the Phantom of Manhattan is the unofficial sequel to Gaston Leroux’s original novel and I fly through it in one sitting. It becomes my guilty pleasure, and much to my enjoyment, enables the musical-sequel Love Never Dies to come to fruition.

5

The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky

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It’s the summer of 2012 and I’ve just completed my first year at university so I head into Waterstones to celebrate. I browse the shelves, when this book catches my eye. I’ve heard it’s being made into a movie, and once I read the synopsis I’m sold. I buy this in a two for one deal along with Fifty Shades of Grey, which I soon regret, but this novel serves as a reminder why picking Creative Writing as my degree is a good decision.

6

Paper Towns by John Green

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After I realise John Green has written not one, but four other books, I head to Amazon and go on a book binge buy spree. I buy An Abundance of Katherine’s, Paper Towns, Will Grayson, Will Grayson and The Fault in Our Stars, his latest novel. Paper Towns arrives first, and on that first page, John Green becomes my second Auto-Buy author. Sitting in my porch/bedroom, as Spring turns to Summer in 2013, I delve into Q’s world, sitting next to him in the mini van as we make our way along the East Coast to find Margo.

7

The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath

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It’s Christmas 2013 and I’m in New York. I head into Barnes and Noble on 5th Avenue and browse the shelves aimlessly. Outside it’s snowing, and I know we have to get the Croton-Harmon train back before peak times but I can’t tear myself away. Most people are gazing up at the Christmas Tree at the Rockefeller Center, but I’m gazing up at the rows of books before me. I’ve always wanted to read The Bell Jar, and so I buy it there and then before I could talk myself out of it. I read it on the train all the way to Tarrytown.

8

Uglies by Scott Westerfeld

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It’s 2014 and I’m in my final semester of university. In our Creative Visions module, we’re exploring futuristic words and thus my love for dystopian fiction is born. I spend my time trying to escape the pain of assignments and dissertation talk by curling up with this book, finding a whole new definition of the word escapism. As I read, Tally and I hover board along the skyline, wondering what exactly it is that makes a person “pretty”.

9

Flowers in the Attic and the Dollanganger Saga by VC Andrews

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Despite trying to escape talk of my pending dissertation, I can’t, but I find respite in “reading for research”. Flowers in the Attic is the first book in the Dollanganger Saga, and fills my head with rich, luxurious, gothic mansions, plot twists and betrayal. I lap it up, and am reminded that my final piece for my degree is MINE, and take notes on delicious description from Ms Andrews.

10

The Divergent Series by Veronica Roth

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I’ve finally left university. My dissertation is handed in and now I’m waiting on my results. Now I can read whatever books I choose, and the thought of that alone is so liberating. When I hear that Divergent is to be made into a movie, I figure it’s just another book series jumping on the coat tails of The Hunger Games, but after I decide to read the series, I realise it’s so much more. Tris goes on a journey unlike any other. She questions what it means to be selfless and brave, and questions her identity along the way. The ending to the Divergent series is heartbreaking, but proves it’s not just another book series. It’s a social commentary on human nature.

11

We Were Liars by E Lockhart

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Three years worth of assigned reading stopped me from buying any new books, so as my graduation fast approaches in the Autumn of 2014, I look for exciting books to catch my eye. Rediscovering authors seems to be a habit of mine. Many years ago when I was in secondary school I read a booked called The Boyfriend List, now nearly ten years later I find We Were Liars by the very same E Lockhart. It’s my first trip into psychological thrillers and I LOVE it. I don’t realise the twist and it blows my mind.

12

Belzhar by Meg Wolitzer

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I’m at my very first Writing Weekend as an alumni of the University of Winchester, and Belzhar has been my most anticipated read of 2014. A YA novel, inspired by The Bell Jar, set at boarding school, and it’s right up my street. Sometimes I wish I could go back to school, just so that I could choose to go to boarding school. Or sometimes I wish I could move back into Halls of Residence, where life was much more simple.

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Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell

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My graduation has come and gone. I really am a full fledged graduate, so I retreat to a place that makes me feel safe. I’ve spent much of the past ten years online. Not just online but ONLINE, participating in forums and chat rooms, writing in online journals, and writing, writing, writing. I never thought anyone would understand my “life online”, and I didn’t know how to communicate to anyone what that time in my life meant to me, but Rainbow Rowell does it with one swift novel: Fangirl.

14

And the Hippos Were Boiled in Their Tanks… by Jack Kerouac and William S Burroughs

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It’s almost Christmas again and I’ve just finished watching Kill Your Darlings with Daniel Radcliffe. I quickly become obsessed with the Beat Generation and haul a tonne of books from that era. This book is the fictional account, similar to the Kill Your Darlings, of the murder of David Krammerer and the Beat Poets growing up in the underbelly of New York City. I adore this book the moment I read the first page and the moment I read the last.

15

Cinder and The Lunar Chronicles by Marissa Meyer

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I’m twenty three going on ten years old again. I’m scouting the scrapyard for junk metal with Cinder and Peony when she gets taken. I’m running with Cinder to warn Prince Kai about Levana. I’m sitting in the cell with Dr Erland when he tells her she’s the lost Princess Selene. I’m reminded that you’re never too old for fairy tales.

Did I mention any books in this list that you love too? Let me know in the comments.

blue butterfly – maine

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The people in photographs don’t seem the same in real life. Even though I might have held their hands, felt their bones, and warmed to their smiles. Even though they are real life, and sometimes my real life, I still view it as if I were inside the bell jar.