Penguin Modern Poets series is revamped

Penguin Modern Poets series is revamped

Penguin is launching a new series of succinct collectible guides of contemporary poetry called Penguin Modern Poets.

The series is a revival of the 1960s series that ran to 27 titles under the same name until the mid 1970s in a bid to usher in "a new golden age".

The mission statement of the original guides, assembling groups of writers including the Mersey poets, was to introduce contemporary poetry to the "general reader" by selecting the work of three poets that would best "illustrate the poets' characteristics in style and form".

By the end of the original series, it had conducted a survey of 81 poets, spanning the anti-modernist movement poetry of Kingsley Amis to British Poetry Revival member Tom Raworth who aimed to counter modernism's "pernicious influence".

Every volume in the new series promises again to bring together "the most exciting voices of our moment". The series is aimed at both "seasoned poetry fans" and "curious readers" alike.

The first "volume", as each book in the series is referred to, is called If I'm Scared We Can't Win (right), collating the work of three women poets said to all "write fascinatingly about female experience from present-day Britain to Ancient Greece" and "push boundaries, while remaining totally accessible and compelling". It includes the first ever selection from the whole body of Anne Carson's work alongside two British poets who have taken her influence in new directions: prize-winning Emily Berry, and Sophie Collins, who the guide aims to introduce for the first time.

It publishes as a paperback original priced £7.99 on 28th July.

Volume two (left) comprises poetry from poets with "mad cap energy": Kansas-born Michael Robbins, whose debut poetry collection, Alien Vs. Predator, was published in the US by Penguin in 2012, followed by The Second Sex in 2014; Patricia Lockwood from Indiana, said to have been raised "in all the worst cities of the Midwest", whose memoir Priestdaddy Penguin will also publish in 2017 alongside a UK edition of Motherland Fatherland Homelandsexuals; and Brighton based writer Timothy Thornton, also a composer and pianist, whose work includes Jocund Day (Mountain Press, 2011), Working Together For A Safer London (Barque Press, 2015), Water And Burning Effects On/Off (Shit Valley, 2015) and Broken Slat From Starling (The Winter Olympics, 2015).

Volume three (right), meanwhile, highlights the work of Somali-British poet Warsan Shire, whose poetry was recently thrust into the spotlight by pop star Beyonce Knowles to feature on her visual album Lemonade. Shire, who was London's Young Poet Laureate in 2014, is published by independent publisher flipped eye, which is planning to publish her first full collection at the end of this year/ early 2017. Shire is joined by poets Sharon Olds and Malika Booker in the volume.

The aim will be to launch a new poetry collection every three months.

Poetry editor Donald Futers said: "There’s a strong case for our finding ourselves right now in a golden age for poetry. Between creative writing programs, an abundance of new publications, the ever-growing popularity of spoken word and performance poetry – think of Kate Tempest, or Warsan Shire – and a new generation made unprecedentedly available to one other across national boundaries by the internet, exciting poetry capable of speaking deeply to, challenging, and exciting its readers is being written on a staggering scale. The time is ripe for this revival of the Penguin Modern Poets: affordable, desirable, high-quality introductions to the best of contemporary poetry, both familiar and unfamiliar. Readers only need a hand extended to them, and an opened door – and the trusted Penguin brand places us in an ideal position to offer both.”

Tom Etherington, designer of the books, the spines of which will form a rainbow on the shelf, said: "The design of the Modern Poets strikes a balance between the reductive simplicity synonymous with Penguin covers and a friendly colourful feel that reflects the series’ ambition to be poetry that can be enjoyed by everybody.”