From Li Bai’s ‘Bring in the Ale’ to Ted Kooser’s ‘Beer Bottle’; from Robert Burns’s’ John Barleycorn’ to Carol Ann Duffy’s ‘John Barleycorn’ (no, you are not seeing double), the poems collected here attest to humankind’s long and joyous (mostly) relationship with the world’s most popular alcoholic beverage. A surprising number of authors, and perhaps some surprising authors, have added their tributes to the brew.
Here, to name but a few, we find Charles Baudelaire, John Betjamen, William Blake, Bertolt Brecht, Raymond Carver, Amy Clampitt, Emily Dickinson, Benjamin Franklin, Robert Graves, Langston Hughes, Eric Idle, E. Nesbit, Flann O’Brien, Frank O’Hara, Sylvia Plath, Arthur RImbaud, Rumi and Hank Williams, all rather less than sober. Unsurprisingly, ‘Anon.’ is widely represented, in particularly exuberant spirits.
There are recipes, and hangovers (inevitably); there’s a hymn to Ninkasi, ancient Sumerian goddess of beer, Prohibition protest songs and old English drinking catches; there is philosophy (of a sort), and consolation. Whether pulling up at the celestial bar in Keats’s ‘Mermaid Tavern’ or at the grittier, jazzier one in Carl Sandburg’s ‘Honky Tonk in Cleveland, Ohio’, lovers of beer and poetry are sure to find something to celebrate in these pages.
Christoph Keller is a Swiss novelist and playwright. His memoir, The Best Dancer, about living with disability, was a bestseller. He is the co-author of a forthcoming biography of the American poet Muriel Rukeyser, to be published by Alfred A. Knopf. He divides his time between New York and St Gallen, Switzerland. He loves beer.
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The Map and the Clock : A Laureate’s Choice of the Poetry of Britain and Ireland Edited by Carol Ann Duffy and Gillian Clarke£9.99
The Map and the Clock is a celebration of the most scintillating poems ever composed on our islands. Curated by Poet Laureate Carol Ann Duffy, and by Gillian Clarke, National Poet of Wales, this anthology gathers together fourteen centuries of extraordinary verse.