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Staying Alive


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About the Author

Neil Astley is editor of Bloodaxe Books, which he founded in 1978. His books include novels, poetry collections and anthologies, most notably the Bloodaxe Staying Alive trilogy: Staying Alive (Bloodaxe, UK 2002/ Miramax, US 2003), Being Alive (2004) and Being Human (2011), along with Essential Poems from the Staying Alive Trilogy (2012). His other anthologies (all these from Bloodaxe) include Earth Shattering: ecopoems (2007), The Hundred Years' War: modern war poems (2014), and three collaborations with with Pamela Robertson-Pearce, Soul Food: nourishing poems for starved minds (2008), and the DVD-books In Person: 30 Poets (2008) and In Person: World Poets (2017). He has published two novels, The End of My Tether (2002), which was shortlisted for the Whitbread First Novel Award, and The Sheep Who Changed the World (2005). In 2012 Candlestick Press published his selection of Ten Poems About Sheep in its renowned pamphlet series. In 2015 he guest-edited a special international issue of the American literary journal Ploughshares, its first all-poetry issue in its 44-year history. He received an Eric Gregory Award for his poetry from the Society of Authors in 1982 and was given a D.Litt from Newcastle University for his work with Bloodaxe Books in 1995. He is a trustee of Ledbury Poetry Festival, and a Visiting Fellow at Newcastle University. He was made an Honorary Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature in 2018.


If you purchase only one collection of poetry this year for your library (or for yourself), consider this anthology. Ranging from the lyrical to the edgy, from the thoughtful to the political, British poet Astley's montage of modern poetry never fails to delight both the intellect and the senses. The 500 poems are arranged in 12 thematic sections (e.g., "In and Out of Love"), allowing for some telling juxtapositions. Richard Wilbur, correctly identified as one of the "supreme formal technicians of our age," appears alongside poets whom he influenced, such as Michael Longley, Derek Mahon, and Michael Donaghy, while Robert Frost and e.e. cummings share space with Thom Gunn, Adam Zagajewski, and a wealth of others from around the world. Astley's sense of the political and evolutionary nature of poetry is evident not only in his eye for selection but in the introductory essays that grace each section. A good introduction to recent and current writers; recommended for both public and academic collections.-Diana McRae, San Lorenzo Lib., CA Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.

'These poems distil the human heart as nothing else... Staying Alive celebrates the point of poetry. It's invigorating and makes me proud of being human' - Jane Campion 'Truly startling and powerful poems' - Mia Farrow 'Staying Alive is a blessing of a book. The title says it all. I have long waited for just this kind of setting down of poems - and the way they work together is wonderful - all come together to talk at the same table. Has there ever been such a passionate anthology? These are poems that hunt you down with the solace of their recognition' - Anne Michaels 'Staying Alive is a book which leaves those who have read or heard a poem from it feeling less alone and more alive' - John Berger 'Staying Alive is a magnificent anthology. The last time I was so excited, engaged and enthralled by a collection of poems was when I first encountered The Rattle Bag. I can't think of any other anthology that casts its net so widely, or one that has introduced me to so many vivid and memorable poems' - Philip Pullman 'Usually if you say a book is "inspirational" that means it's New Agey and soft at the center. This astonishingly rich anthology, by contrast, shows that what is edgy, authentic and provocative can also awaken the spirit and make its readers quick with consciousness. In these pages I discovered many new writers, and I've decided I'm now in love with our troublesome epoch if it can produce poems of such genius' - Edmund White 'A vibrant, brilliantly diverse anthology of poems to delight the mind, heart and soul. A book for people who know they love poetry, and for people who think they don't' - Helen Dunmore 'Staying Alive is a wonderful testament to Neil Astley's liftetime in poetry, and to the range and courage of his taste. It's also, of course, a testament to poetry itself: to its powers to engross and move us, to its ability to challenge and brace us, and to its exultation. Everyone who cares about poetry should own this book.' - Andrew Motion 'When you choose your book for Desert Island Discs, this should be it. Staying Alive proves that poetry is the most sustaining and life-affirming of literary forms. A triumph' - Helena Kennedy

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