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Mark Burnhope’s Memorable Holiday Poetry


Mark Burnhope

I haven’t been “on holiday” for years, but I’ve lived by the sea for almost two years now, so the poetry which springs to mind is the stuff which has accompanied me to the beach. My criteria for good holiday poetry: something which grabs and keeps hold (because it’s rip-roaringly funny, maybe, or emotionally gripping); something which takes up themes pertinent to relaxation (wildlife, landscape, nature and the “nature” of the spirit); something which maybe takes up personal issues I’ve been grappling with — what’s a holiday, if not a retreat? — and finally, something readable in the airport / on a plane. Indeed, it helps if some of the poems are short. Narrowing it down was difficult, but I’ve chosen three:

Mick Imlah, The Lost Leader — One of those collections that blew apart my notion of what poetry does or should do: mythical, historical, slangy, lyrical, very serious, tender, and very, very funny. I dare you to read “Rugby Vs. Football” without laughing. If you’re going on a holiday which involves drinking (Ibiza?), try reading it round a campfire after a few pints.

Andy Brown & John Burnside, Goose Music — A co-authored book, this one speaks beautifully about birds, animals, landscape, in and of themselves but also as ways of reflecting on the spirit, theology and philosophy. The poems are beautifully lyrical (so instantly enjoyable) but full of intellectual thought and questioning as well. In a way, I think, they’re an update on the “elaborate conceit” used by John Donne and the Metaphysicals (a great band name, eh?).

Sian Hughes, The Missing — So much great poetry that celebrates life also carries the pain of bereavement with seering honesty. In the first year of living in Bournemouth, I guess I was in this kind of mood. This book went nearly everywhere with me, even the beach. The good old English weather meant that sometimes grey sky and rain fit the words perfectly; but then the sun came out, and the sun lit up the pages. Tender, sad, angry, celebratory, and often pretty short. Hughes knows how to deliver something heart-breaking in an instant. Perhaps to be avoided if you’re afraid to show emotion on a plane.

Mark Burnhope was born in 1982. He studied at London School of Theology before completing an MA in Creative Writing at Brunel University. His poems and reviews have appeared in a variety of magazines, in print and online. He currently lives in Bournemouth, Dorset with his partner, four stepchildren, two geckos and a greyhound. His pamphlet The Snowboy is forthcoming from Salt. His blog is at

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