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Thursday, 8 July 2010

Eyewear's Top Five Poets 2005-2010

To celebrate Eyewear's five years, I have been creating little lists with "fives" and multiples of five in them.  Here is the final list of the "top five" poets of the English-speaking world, 2005-2010; not necessarily the best, mind you, but those who have made the most impact, for literary and extra-literary reasons.  This list is not canonical, is problematic, no doubt biased, leaning to the UK/Ireland, but trying to be inclusive, and take into account Canada, America, the Caribbean, and Australia and New Zealand.

1. Geoffrey Hill - the UK's new Oxford Professor of Poetry is the greatest living master of English poetry not to have a Nobel prize.  This is a worthy appointment.

2. Fiona Sampson - the editor of the UK's most important poetry journal of note, Poetry Review, is also a prolific poet, reviewer, critic, and has published several key books about reading and writing.  She is the closest thing Britain now has to an modern Eliotic mind - one supple enough to be both creative and critical with conviction, integrity and an open mind.

3. Charles Bernstein - America's leading avant-garde voice since Ashbery has cemented his role over the last five years.  His recent Selected poems is a great work, but it is his post-9/11 Girly Man that may be the key American poetry collection of the decade just ended.

4. PK Page - Canada's "greatest living poet" died in early 2010, after an extraordinary career.  In many ways the equal or superior to Elizabeth Bishop, she remains relatively unread internationally.

5. Derek Walcott - surviving a media-led scandal, Walcott has redeemed his reputation with a collection of "late style" work, White Egrets, which is a masterpiece.

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Ten Invaluable Runners-up:

Ruth Padel - an excellent poet, critic, and over-all advocate of poetry, her brilliant insight into natural science, Darwin, and verse, has made her a major figure.

Paul Muldoon - Ireland's leading poet post-Heaney is also the most dynamic new poetry editor in America.  He seems poised for a Nobel.  His Horse Latitudes marked a new career high.

Giles Goodland - for too long, the British avant-garde has turned to older figures to announce its value (Raworth, Prynne, etc).  Giles Goodland has emerged as a variously-styled innovator at home with the lyric and the fragment.  He brings a word-expert's knowledge to language, and a sense of 40s style, to his wonderful, prize-winning poems.

Anne Carson - Canada's leading living poet (post-Page) has gone from strength to strength, and her latest work, a haunting and original elegy for her lost brother, continues to expand her oeuvre.

David Lehman - poet, critic, editor - no one has done more for American poetry these past few decades, and his masterful Oxford anthology of American poetry established a new canon.

Carol Ann Duffy - the first-ever poet laureate to be Scottish and a woman - and openly experimental in personal life - has hit the ground running, launching new prizes, and being even more engaged than Andrew Motion, a superb laureate.

CK Stead - a new Collected Poems, a prize for best short story - the great New Zealand poet-critic has defined himself as a singular and vital man of letters for the new century.

John Tranter - 40 issues of jacket now see the greatest online journal move to America soon.  Tranter, as poet, editor and world-wide enthusiast for new poetries, is a great original.

Leonard Cohen - Canada's greatest songwriter, beloved poet, and ladies man to the world, has had a resurrection of late, and made his late career a blast.

Jen Hadfield - there are several talented exciting Young British Poets (Daljit Nagra, Kathryn Simmonds, Luke Kennard, Emily Berry, Sam Riviere, Jack Underwood, Annie Katchinska, etc) - but Hadfield is the youngest-ever winner of the leading UK prize, the TS Eliot Prize.  Her refreshing and surprising (to some) win, announced a new generation's abilities and possibilities.
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