Lifesaving Poems: the book

Lifesaving Poems

Photograph © Bloodaxe Books Ltd

I am delighted to announce that my Lifesaving Poems series of blog posts has now become a book, published by Bloodaxe.

Readers of this blog will know how the project started and therefore what this means to me. Originally, the idea of Lifesaving Poems stemmed from a remark I once saw of Seamus Heaney, along the lines of an out-loud query about how many poems could affect a person over a lifetime. Was it ten, he said, twenty, fifty, a hundred, or more?

To put this notion to the test I began copying out poems, in inky longhand, into a plain Moleskine notebook given to me for Christmas. My criteria for inclusion were as basic as possible. In the style of Heaney and Hughes’s The Schoolbag I allowed myself only one poem per poet. And I had to be able to remember the experience of first encountering it.

I didn’t write in the notebook every day. Sometimes weeks would go by without an entry, only to spur myself into action with several poems in one sitting of a rainy weekend, say. According to the inscription on the front page I began in July 2009 and finally filled the notebook in May 2011, shortly after which I wrote my first Lifesaving Poems post, on Alasdair Paterson’s ‘Fishermen’.

Readers of this blog, and of my memoir Love for Nowwill also know that, quite apart from the physical effort of copying the poems, the notebook and subsequent blog mean much more to me. This is because, during my treatment for cancer in 2006 I felt for the first time in my life that poetry was leaving me. By that I mean not just the desire (or ability, or concentration) to write poems, but the notion of reading and spending time with poems at all.

Lifesaving Poems  is therefore an attempt to say thank you, ultimately to poetry for not deserting me but also to the poets who wrote the poems, and the people -teachers, friends, colleagues, poets, anthologists- who have influenced my reading, and therefore my life, so richly.

I should say straight away that not every poem from the blog is included in the book. Partly this is for reasons of size, and partly I am hoping there will be a sequel! To find out who I have included you will have to do what I am always encouraging my readers to do: buy the book. It feels both odd and wonderful to write that sentence in support of something I have put together.

If the process of turning a notebook into a blog into a book has taught me anything it is that poems are needed by people. Which is to say not just that we reach for poetry in times of distress, joy and grief; but that a poem, lying dormant, only comes fully alive when this or that person comes along and reads it. That is what I have tried (and continue) to do with Lifesaving Poems: to stay true to the energy of first encounters, remembering as accurately as possible my debt to the friend or anthologist who put me in the poem’s way.

I am indebted to Neil Astley for suggesting and supporting the anthology from the start; and to Anna Clarke for her help with the manuscript.


You can buy Lifesaving Poems from Amazon here, order it from Inpress here, or from Waterstones here.

You can also order signed copies from me directly.

The best way to do this is via my Facebook page. NB You will need a PayPal account to do this.

Message me with the email that is linked to your PayPal account, which I will then use to request the amount required. Each book is £12. Postage for one book is £1.52 ; postage for two books is £2.80; postage for three books is also £2.80 (all prices UK only, second class).

Or there are good old cheques. Use the contact form or email address on my Contact pages to get in touch and we can go from there.


  1. Congratulations on the book, Anthony. I will definitely be lining up to buy it. I so love anthologies that contain the story connected to the poem as well as the poem itself. It brings each poem alive in new ways and often for me will create a relationship with a poem that I may not have related to that deeply before. I’m delighted that Bloodaxe has the vision to support this. Good news indeed. x Rionach


  2. Congratulations! This is brilliant news. I love reading poetry in this way, and indeed it was some Bloodaxe anthologies that drew me into poetry, and some poems in their pages that sometimes saved me. Your approach and theirs will be a wonderful combination. Not only will I be able to buy the book but also send off many as xmas and birthday presents – perfect!


  3. Whooohooo wonderful news, I can’t wait for the book and the sequel. Thanks so much for sharing the posts here and I look forward to dipping my eyes into the pages and pages of words! (PS. not sure you are aware, but I started writing poetry after a consultant suggested I take up meditation, to help my illness, ME. It was through this meditation and mindfulness practice, “the poems” arrived. And as my husband said “if you are now writing poetry, then you must start reading it!”. And someone mentioned your name and I followed their recommendation, soaking up each of your lifesaving poems. You have been an open door to a world I previously know little of. I will be forever grateful! PPS the fruits of my work are in Observant Observings!!)


  4. Fantastic news, Anthony, congratulations. As you know, I really admire your blog (and taste in poems) and it will make a great anthology… Also, I love Bloodaxe (my favourite poetry publisher), so, what an excellent partnership!

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Fantastic news – will be such a good resource for Lapidus and the Poetry Therapy community and great to have those wonderful posts in one book


  6. Wonderful news, Anthony! I’ll be looking for it when it’s out. Someone once said of jazz, “The music never lets you down.” I agree and I feel the same about poetry – those poems we return to again and again. I’ve added several to my list thanks to you and your blog. Your book will be like a party with everyone invited!
    As always,


  7. Hi Anthony

    I am so pleased this is happening. Pleased for you and pleased for everyone who will be able to see the wonderful poems you have selected and all the wise and illuminating things you have to say about the poems, about writing and about being human. Not that you ever pronounce, advise, moralise – you just quietly let your thoughts take you to somewhere deep and kind and true and then give them voice in a way that’s unpretentious, clear and direct. Even the most difficult personal stuff. You just go there and it’s such a relief to be able to think, ‘It’s not just me then.’ Can’t wait to see the book.


    Liked by 1 person

    1. Love this comment Chrissy. “it’s such a relief to be able to think, ‘It’s not just me then.’’ Exactly. And everything else you wrote. ‘deep and kind and true’ really captures the gift that is Anthony’s voice. Thanks for putting it so well, Rionach


    2. Hi Chrissy, this is one the most lovely messages I have ever had. Thank you. I can’t tell you what it means to know my words and thoughts have had that kind of impact. Thank you for letting me know.
      As ever with best wishes



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