Best new poetry of 2019: Strong year for work from the living and the dead

New voices emerge, anniversary celebrations and fresh work from established writers

 Ciaran Carson. Photograph: Cyril Byrne

Ciaran Carson. Photograph: Cyril Byrne

John McAuliffe: My top poetry collections of the year

Ciaran Carson never rested on his well-deserved laurels and, every few years, seemed to perfect a(nother!) new style. Still Life (Gallery), the book he finished before his death this October, was another departure. The poems take their cue from paintings – by Poussin, Angela Hackett, Gerard Dillon and Yves Klein – which he describes lovingly, before they become occasions for speculation and memory: where did he first see the paintings, and with who? What has brought them to mind now, as he makes his mundane way around the house or to the hospital for check-ups? Slowly, in long, long lines, each image, each poem, opens up like a Japanese paper flower in water.

Karen Solie’s The Caiplie Caves (Picador) is just as much a breath of fresh air. Adopting the persona of St Ethernan, possibly an Irish hermit stranded in Scotland, Solie’s poems don’t confine themselves to Ethernan’s time, but his imagined situation defines the book. That exiled, attentive perspective makes us see the world anew, and as somehow interconnected, as she observes the intersections of human and animal cultures, industrial heritages and human needs and desires.

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