Helen Mort talks poetry collections

Described by Carol Ann Duffy as  “among the brightest stars in the sparkling new constellation of British poets”, Helen Mort is one of the finest young poets in the UK. She won the Foyle Young Poet of the Year FIVE times, became the youngest ever poet in residence at the Wordsworth Trust, she’s been shortlisted for the 2013 Costa Poetry Award: in short, she’s dead good.


And for National Poetry Day she’s written exclusively about her favourite poetry collections for Cuckoo.

People always ask me who my favourite poets are, but I don’t really have favourite poets. I have favourite poems and favourite collections, and I discover new ones all the time. Here are five books that I’ve been returning to lately because the writers each do something I admire, something I’m not sure I could do myself.

The Many Days: Selected Poems by Norman MacCaig

The Scottish poet Norman MacCaig (1910-1996) has a brilliant way of finding just the right metaphors for people, animals and wild places (particularly the Scottish Highlands) making you look at them slant. His poems are short, but every word is precise.

In by Andrew Waterhouse

Andrew Waterhouse died in 2001. His first collection is full of stark but beautiful poems about family, nature and how the way we feel subtly tints how we look at things. ‘Burning Your Brother’s Guitar’ is a brilliant blaze of a poem.

Poems by Edna St Vincent Millay

Millay lived from 1892-1950 and were the third woman to ever win the Pulitzer Prize for Poetry. This collection of her work is full of brave, witty, concise poems that emphasise the importance of living for the moment. Her poems are formally adept and memorable.

Blessing The Boats: New and Selected Poems by Lucille Clifton

The poems of Lucille Clifton’s that celebrate the body are exhilarating. ‘Homage to My Hips’ and ‘Poem to my Uterus’ are particular favourites, exploring the body as if it is a familiar but surprising landscape.

Physical by Andrew McMillan

Published earlier in 2015, Andrew McMillan’s first collection is full of poems that take an unflinching look at masculinity, relationships and love. They’re bold, exciting and always moving. They also know how to manipulate space on the page to striking effect.