Welcome one and all to this week’s Top 5 Wednesday post! For those of you who don’t know Top 5 Wednesday is a weekly meme/challenge which was created by the wonderful Lainey from gingerreadslainey and is now overseen by the equally lovely Sam from Thoughts on Tomes. Every Wednesday, participants devise their Top 5 based on a given topic.
This Wednesday’s topic is Books to Give _____ as Gifts: Create a recommendations guide for a person. Be creative with this. It can be simple such as “books for parents”, more elaborate like “books for Ravenclaws”, or expert level like “books for -insert your favourite fictional character here-“. You can even take out the category completely and have all 5 be suggestions for different types of people!
At this time of year, every publisher knocks it out of the park with their stunning gift collections, pretty editions of classics, and illustrated books. I think these are often the perfect things to gift to your nearest and dearest, whether they’re voracious readers or not, and they can often be the gateway books into a new genre or medium. In an effort to make this list a tad more specialised, I decided to focus my efforts on Books to Give Poetry Newbies as Gifts. I myself am something of a relative newbie to poetry so I feel I’m well-placed to say what would/wouldn’t intimidate me if I were gifted it during the holidays – and a nicely illustrated or packaged edition always helps!
Honourable Mention: Your favourite poetry collection!
It may sound obvious but, hey, if you have a favourite poetry collection, this is the perfect occasion to spread the love! I myself have gifted Elisabeth Hewer’s Wishing for Birds collection to some people in previous years for Christmas. It’s a poetry collection which I immensely enjoyed and which I think isn’t too challenging or demanding for people who are new to poetry. It’s also full of themes which I think/hope a lot of people could relate to.
This collection does what it says on the tin: it provides a poem for every day/night of the year. That’s 365 poems for your reading pleasure – value for money, or what? The poems are often seasonal and/or apt for the day that they’re “assigned to” and are different moods and tones, from the likes of William Shakespeare to Kate Tempest. There’s sure to be a poem for everyone in here – after all, you have 365 goes to find one you like! – and it’s also a great way to sample a lot of poets in bitesize chunks.
Penguin’s Poems for Life was one of the first poetry collections I read that wasn’t basically just an anthology or required reading for school/university and I loved the way that they grouped their poems loosely based on the ‘stages of life’ identified by Shakespeare in the famous ages of man speech from As You Life It. So there are poems for: birth and beginning; childhood and childish things; growing up and first impressions; making a living and making love; family life, for better, for worse; getting older, looking back; intimations of mortality; mourning and monuments. With a wide range of poets, tones, and styles this is a perfect whistlestop tour of famous poets to look out for.
This started life at a literary festival: William Sieghart was challenged to ‘prescribe’ poems for the audience members based on their particular ailments – heartbreak, celebration, sadness etc. and it took off, into a radio show, onto BBC television, and into the Guardian newspaper. Poetry could be a great balm for ailments, to discover that whatever you were feeling wasn’t just particular to you – someone else had felt about it, someone else had wrote about it, and someone else had read about it and could now ‘prescribe’ it to you as a ‘cure’, however temporary that might be. I think that’s a great stance from which to build up a collection of poetry and I’m sure most people would appreciate being given such a thoughtful gift.
We all love a good illustrated gift book, don’t we? Well, this might just be poetry’s answer. Chris Riddell, known best for his work as a cartoonist in the Observer newspaper and a children’s book illustrator. I for one remember The Edge Chronicles vividly, as well as continue to love his artistic accompaniments to Neil Gaiman’s magical writing. So when I saw this book existed, I knew I had to include it on this list of great poetry collections to gift to those new to poetry. It makes poetry even more beautiful and even more accessible, perhaps for younger readers, or to encourage families to share poetry aloud with each other and then enjoy the illustrations which accompany them.
If there’s one thing that might be sometimes iffy in poetry collections, it’s the ratio of male to female poets, mostly stemming from the fact that the canon doesn’t try particularly hard to laud female writers, unless it’s told to. Because of this, if poetry collections lean heavily on “the classics”, they can miss the opportunity to hold up some amazing examples of poems written by women. This collection looks like it could well be the antidote: poems from both modern and contemporary poets and those a little further back in history, from the likes of Maya Angelou, Wendy Cope, Carol Ann Duffy, Jackie Kay, Emily Dickinson, Christina Rossetti and the list goes on… An undoubtedly amazing way to learn about (as the subtitle puts it) some “brave, bold and beautiful poems by women”.
What books would you give poetry newbies as gifts? Do you have a Top 5 Wednesday post for this week? Be sure to link me below if you do!