Greta Bellamacina’s top five poetry books

Fashion’s high poetess selects her favourite reads – from Ted Hughes to Warsan Shire

Poet Greta Bellamacina
Poet Greta Bellamacina | Image: Anya Holdstock

Crow, Ted Hughes

“This, for me, is the best thing Ted Hughes ever wrote, filled with dark humour and surrealist imaginings, told through the eyes of a crow. The collection questions the power of hope in the world and is about the crow’s odyssey in search of its female creator – it’s very forward-thinking. And it has my favourite love poem, called Lovesong: a beautifully complicated poem filled with equal measures of light and darkness.”

Crow by Ted Hughes, first published 1970
Crow by Ted Hughes, first published 1970
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Howl, Allen Ginsberg

“This is Ginsberg’s masterpiece, his spiritual rallying cry. When I was 18, I made a pilgrimage to the City Lights bookshop in San Francisco, where Lawrence Ferlinghetti first published the collection, to buy a copy. For me, and for many people, Howl is one of the most important Beat poems – Ginsberg’s remedy for the spiritual crisis of the modern world. One of the first works in the collection is Footnote to Howl, aka Holy, and one of my poems, Church, pays homage to it as it tries to find the sacred in the everyday.” 

Howl And Other Poems by Allen Ginsberg, first published 1956
Howl And Other Poems by Allen Ginsberg, first published 1956
After Mozart (Heroin on 5th St) by Robert Lundquist, first published 2018
After Mozart (Heroin on 5th St) by Robert Lundquist, first published 2018

After Mozart (Heroin on 5th Street), Robert Lundquist

“Lundquist is one of the great lost poets of our time. We met once in San Diego, when he came to one of Rob’s shows and said he liked our work. He showed us his poems, some of which he had published when he was about 20 – but then he became homeless and a drug addict and didn’t publish anything for 50 years or so. This collection is everything he has ever written and is his first book. It is a really beautiful underground depiction of Los Angeles, filled with existential noir melancholy, stories of him meeting Charles Bukowski and Raymond Carver, and his meditations on alcoholism and recovery.” 

Teaching My Mother How to Give Birth, Warsan Shire

“I came across Warsan’s work when I was shortlisted for Young Poet Laureate in 2014, which she won. There is a raging truth to everything she says. I love her line: ‘No one leaves home unless home is in the mouth of a shark.’ She makes you question, as a reader, your own sense of security, and is brilliant at writing about her experiences and her family’s experience of being a refugee.” 

Teaching My Mother How To Give Birth by Warsan Shire, first published 2011
Teaching My Mother How To Give Birth by Warsan Shire, first published 2011
The Awful Rowing Toward God by Anne Sexton, first published 1975
The Awful Rowing Toward God by Anne Sexton, first published 1975

The Awful Rowing Toward God, Anne Sexton

“Published after Anne Sexton died, this collection is a dark foreboding of her own death, filled with confessional musings on her place in the world, the place of death in the world and her questioning of religion and God. The title came from a Catholic priest who said that God was in her typewriter.” 

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