Reviewed by Magdalena Ball
Faber & Faber Poetry Diary
Faber & Faber
Distributed by Allen & Unwin
Hardback, ISBN: 9780571311583, Sept 2014, 128 pages, $24.99aud
For some years now, I’ve been relying on my Filofax, updated with refills each year. It certainly keeps me on track with everything I have to do – in a tidy, business-like manner, but it’s not exactly inspirational. The Faber & Faber Poetry diary is beautifully inspiring, and while it might be more of a book than a time-management tool, I have to say that the idea of beginning each week with a poem, and planning my week with a kind of literary overseer and regular reminder that in the beginning was the word, has a certain appeal. Because the poets are Faber poets, as you might expect, the work is heavily biased towards British giants, with just a few American and Irish poets thrown in, and males outnumbering females by over four to one (23 males and 5 females). Nearly all of the poets are white. So this is very much a canon type offering, with the usual academic biases. I’d love to see a more eclectic, multicultural, multi-gender offering, but that said, the poetry in this collection is certainly exceptional, with a nice blend of contemporary and classic poets.
The book is a nice, pocket-book friendly hardcover, with thick, high quality pages, and an elastic to mark the week. The book has a week to a view, with enough room to record (in small writing) activities and appointments for each day (though not enough to write a poem, should you be sufficiently inspired – you’ll need another notebook for that). Each week there is a new poem, starting with Simon Armitage’s “Poetry”, and finishing with Stevie Smith’s “Not Waving Drowning”. The diary also features full colour images of book covers and a Faber poetry chronology.
All in all, there are worse ways to keep track of your time. Because it’s so attractive to hold, use, and read, this diary would make an excellent gift for a literary friend. The combination of practicality, aesthetics, and the ongoing joy of discovering new poems and re-discovering classic ones is a winner.
About the reviewer: Magdalena Ball is the author of the novels Black Cow and Sleep Before Evening, the poetry books Repulsion Thrust and Quark Soup, a nonfiction book The Art of Assessment, and, in collaboration with Carolyn Howard-Johnson, Sublime Planet, Deeper Into the Pond, Blooming Red, Cherished Pulse, She Wore Emerald Then, and Imagining the Future. She also runs a radio show, The Compulsive Reader Talks. Find out more about Magdalena at http://www.magdalenaball.com