Home List of Anthologies, Literary Histories & Critical Texts


I've linked to this section a page listing who's in each anthology, Anthologies Anatomised, including also the books I've labelled "Poets on What They Do" which are effectively anthologies, plus the Chicago Review British Poetry Issue (more rightly Cambridge Poetry issue). You'll notice too that some of these are deliberately representative anthologies, but others curiously more representative by focusing on work in a specific form or with a single theme/context.

1. Current

Most recent first ...

Thirteen new young-to-youngish poets, tending to London/Cambridge/Sussex connections, but with a fair diversity, and together making a very powerful impact

An anthology of poems and songs written by 55 poets celebrating and exploring the contemporary resonances of medicinal plants and herbs for the Urban Physic Garden

Eighteen poems of eighteen words each by eighteen British (largely) and American poets

16 poets whose work engages with that apparently most conservative of topoi for British poetry through innovative form and style.

Book length magazine on the Anglo-Welsh avant-garde (widely defined), with work from 16 poets (Peter Finch to Rhys Trimble via John James, Iain Sinclair and Zoë Skoulding), plus essays etc (including on Welsh language poetry and the avant-garde).

A wide range of contemporary innovative British women writers

Work from a wide range of young London-based poets

A superb gathering of what a huge number of contemporary British poets (largely) are doing with and to this inescapable and foundational form.

Containing over thirty poets from the UK, USA, Canada, Australia and New Zealand, it presents an alternative vision of late Twentieth century poetic achievement: international, politically engaged and radical in vision.

Famous for its presentation side-by-side, on a chronological basis of Bob Cobbing next to Philip Larkin, Lee Harwood next to Seamus Heaney, Veronica Forrest-Thompson next to Liz Lochhead, this book gives the best all-round view of British poetry since the Lucie-Smith anthology, and over a wider time-scale

A deliberate attempt to represent a range of then new and generally unanthologised poets. Reviewed by Andrew Duncan on Great Works.

2. Historic

In historical seqence ...

Pure Sixties neo-Blakean ecstasy! Pioneers, beats, Cambridge poets, Michael X, John Arden, Lee Harwood (everyone bar the Liverpool Poets)

Genuine attempt to map all varieties of British poetry. Don't bother with the counter-revolutionary 1985 edition!

The first version of the Cambridge School, plus friends

John Muckle was reponsible for this anthology, with separate sections for Black British Poetry, Quote Feminist Unquote Poetry, A Treacherous Assault on British Poetry ("Cambridge", "London" and other poets publishing since 1960s) and Some Younger Poets (the new generation of the "linguistically innovative poets" – mainly London-based)

A wide range of poets, including some performance poets (and short selections of a number of "Forties" generation poets also)

Even more historic

The World We Have Lost. A cool and intelligent look at British poetry of the 1940s by the American poet Kenneth Rexroth, which maps out well a literary culture shortly to be decimated and officially erased from English culture by the White Terror of the 1950s. A predecessor as it were of the Tuma anthology. Book digitally archived at the Internet Archive.

Literary Histories

There is much detailed discussion of the institutional manoeuvrings in this famous episode. But it also acts as a very good introduction to the history of the 'poetry network' in which 'avant-garde' or 'experimental' writing is dominant, its present status, and to the actual writerly qualities of the poetry. This is the book which acts as the most accessible introduction to avant-garde British poetry (if you don't get too bogged down in the Poetry Society minutes!).

Sheppard discusses a range of writers and contexts in the period between the warfare at the Poetry Society in 1976 and the near present, concentrating most on the 1980s, and on poets' construction/use of poetics. Detailed, and rewarding on both past and present.

Poets on What They Do

Some excellent interviews, deeply revealing about the writing of poetry and about specific points in the development of innovative British poetry; but, really, guys, only one woman poet!

Emphasis on performance, with a very wide spread of contemporary approaches discussed

A detailed personal account, with many examples

A curious and diverting assembly from a very wide range of poets

A wide range of very varied but often very fruitful pieces on "the working processes" of poetry, by, largely Cambridge poets (60s–70s) and friends

Critical Texts

Relevant titles include:

Apart from their publications of poetry, other relevant series & titles include: