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Being Alive

BEING ALIVE: the sequel to Staying Alive. Edited by Neil Astley. Bloodaxe Books pound;10.95

Every time we think we know what poetry is, what it can do, where it will lead us, it shakes dust in our faces and settles into a new shape before our eyes. We made great claims for Staying Alive, published two years ago: that it would turn us all on to poetry. The publication of Being Alive on National Poetry Day next Thursday is our chance to prove it has worked, by buying some more: a bold step that assumes we have learned the joy of newness as well as familiarity, that we are ready to let the road home take an unpredictable turn.

QPD (Quality Paperbacks Direct) still has a lot more members than the Poetry Book Society, so the most likely way the very best of the best new collections is going to find its way into the hands of teachers is in an anthology such as this. Without it, I confess, none of my students would have heard the delights of Roddy Lumsden's "Prayer To Be With Mercurial Women". Nor would any of them have been treated to Eva Salzman's "Spells": the only one of these powerful modern curses to dare to mix the bile with the balm, the blessing with the danger, in other words to tell the truth about seduction.

Being alive has always been risky. I will be reading this book with my students because I want them to be passionate about their right to take that risk.

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