Dark horses: 21 Lifesaving Poems which should be better known


Readers of this blog will know that I make a list at the end of each year showing the most popular Lifesaving Poems included on this blog, according to my stats.

Here is a list of Lifesaving Poems which I think ought to be better known. I have stolen the title of this blog post from the marvellous anthology of poems by the same name.


Duty Psychiatrist by Emily Riall

A wonderful young poet whom we lost just as she was finding her voice.

Middle Ages by Tonnus Oosterhoff

‘No one escaped from that time.’

The Switch by Laura Apol

‘Someone loves the man who comes to my house/ to lay wire.’

Eating Outside by Stephen Berg

‘Beautiful women,/ your skin can barely be seen.’

Sunday Lunchtime by Connie Bensley

Biblical and religious references share the same earth as the Sunday Sport, Concorde and corner shops.

Reading the Books Our Children Have Written by Dave Smith

A parable of art and parenting: ‘They have done all this to surprise me,’ he says, ‘surprising themselves’.

Women Who Dye Their Hair by Janet Fisher

A brilliant example of how a poem can appear to be ‘about’ one thing (dying your hair, secret trips to Boots), but is just as much ‘about’ other things (age, sex and death).

8.06 p.m. June 10th 1970 by Tom Raworth

Ian McMillan said this was the best thing in his Against the Grain anthology of 1990.

Let’s Celebrate by Mandy Coe

This got me reading poetry again after having cancer in 2006.

Praying Mantis by Yorifumi Yaguchi

Like teaching, like writing, it’s about love. It’s a love story. It’s not a blog.

Slaughterhouse by Hilary Menos

or, On Being in a Writers’ Group

The Dog by Christopher North

‘Defiant animus behind a mesh of wires.’ Brilliant.

Ghost of a Chance by John Harvey

or, How to Attend a Poetry Reading

Morning by Caroline Yasunaga

or, When Poets Don’t Appear

Il Cavalli di Leonardo by Rutger Kopland

On creativity, impermanence and mortality. It’s all in here.

Instructor by Ann Sansom

A masterpiece of tact and restraint.

The Only Son at the Fish ‘n’ Chip Shop by Geoff Hattersley

As above. The kind of poem which makes you wonder why we bother with novels.

An Upstairs Kitchen by Susannah Amoore

Creativity and longing in West Hampstead.

How It All Started by Catherine Smith

A poem which made me stand up and cheer in my kitchen.

Deep Third Man by Hubert Moore

or, When One Poet Rescues Another Poet

Father’s Day 1970 by Kath MacKay

‘This day is his. He’s grand with goodwill and beer and fears not a soul.’


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