When I joined Twitter over a year ago, one of the first things I learned about was Salt Publishing‘s Just One Book campaign. Evidently Salt, like many small publishers, was in trouble, and this was their approach to try to raise awareness and sales. The meme went around the literary community quickly, and drew a lot of attention to Salt’s books. I’d never read any of Salt’s authors, so I went and checked out their website, read some of the poems and decided to support them by purchasing my one book: Siân Hughes’ The Missing.

Hughes’ poems are excellent. They mine the regret and sadness of loss: loss of love, loss of dignity, loss of a job, and most poignantly, the loss of a child. I have no idea if Hughes’ life has taken any of these turns, but the poems feel devastatingly real, the book having an air of confession and intimacy–often relieved by a dark humor. If this is the caliber of Salt’s publications, I thought, I wanted more.

Read “The Send Off” by Siân Hughes, which won the Arvon International Poetry Competition 2006.

Watch Siân Hughes read several excellent poems from The Missing:

After reading an article in The Times about several young British poets  (“The Facebook Poets”) I became interested in reading more of Olivia Cole’s   poetry. Her debut collection, Restricted View, received some generous praise from Clive James and Cole was instantly being compared to Sylvia Plath (for her sake, I hope that doesn’t turn out to be entirely accurate). Thankfully, the poems themselves do live up to the hype, and fully deserve praise and readers.

Olivia Cole writes intoxicatingly about young love, first love, the excitement of discovery, and the general thrill of being young. (She writes about the end of relationships, about regret and failure, too, but it’s the celebratory poems that really stir the imagination and linger in memory.) The subject matter of the most-memorable poems almost makes Restricted View the thematic yin to The Missing’s yang. Cole’s work proves she’s not the party girl that the day-job as a literary and “party scene” columnist for a British paper might suggest.

Read “Matinee Idol” by Olivia Cole,  one of my favorite poems in Restricted View.

I’m often disappointed to find that new books of poetry from established poets only contain one or two truly memorable (to me, anyway) new poems. That’s not a problem with the work of Siân Hughes and Olivia Cole, both are curious, creative poets who write about a range of events and emotions. I don’t know anything about the biography of either beyond that on the dust jackets, so I can’t know if the poetry comes from great feats of imaginative empathy or from bitter experience, but the work convinces, the poems have the feel of truth, and that’s all that matters at the end of the day.

Watch Olivia Cole read two poems from Restricted View:

I’m contemplating which Salt poetry collection I want to read next, and I’d welcome any suggestions.

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