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4.8 out of 5 stars
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on 20 January 2005
Every bit as indispensable as an Encyclopaedia or a family medical book "Being Alive" is a collection of poetry about everyday living in the 21st Century. This wonderfully arranged collection includes such lofty topics such as Love and Death as well finding room for poems about TV and the pet dog on its canvas.
Never overly romantic (those that wish to read about the surface beauty of nature will need to look elsewhere). "Being Alive" is as current and as gritty as a book about modern life needs to be. What the poems do capture are those illusive and awkward feelings that you've had and have never been able to put into words. Filled with vitality you can come away from some of the poems elated and feeling that you are not alone. The quality of the imagery is fresh and startling, every word conveys (or reveals) the poets meaning.
A wonderful book.
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Being Alive has such a wealth of poetry, it's almost too much. I felt as if I'd stuffed myself with good things and ended up feeling slightly sick as I came on the end-poems and the sadness and joy (yes) of death. One must be allowed to be flippant at death which comes to everyone, and so the poem I want read out at my funeral is James Fenton's verse
"Death is the envy of the hicks
The last crap shot, the final fix
It is the burning of the ricks
Lovelier than sex, it
Beckons us home across the Styx
And we must exit."
This verse isn't in the book - the only missed one for me. There are better poems, of course, many of them gathered in this book, but death is a personal option when it comes to poetry. Some may need respect and withdrawn faces, I'd like someone to laugh, or at least smile, at my funeral. In death the only necessity is acceptance.
There are so many poems here of real worth, beauty and meaning. Pablo Neruda's beautiful poem about Horses:
"Their necks were towers
cut from the stone of pride
and behind their transparent eyes
energy raged like a prisoner."
Or take the wonderful sinister grace of Gwendolyn McEwan's poem Dark Pines Under Water:
"But the dark pines of your mind dip deeper
And you are sinking, sinking, sleeper
In an elementary world.
There is something down there and you want it told."
And what about the subtle packed punch of Anne Stevenson's poem The Mother, given here in its entirety:
"Of course I love them, they are my children
That is my daughter and this is my son
And this is my life I give them to please them
It has never been used, keep it safe, pass it on."
So many searching, ambiguous or completely open poems, Story of a Hotel Room by Rosemary Tonks, several poems by Sheenagh Pugh are especial favourites, Nostalgia by Billy Collins, two poems by Dorothy Nimmo, who deserves to be better known, Ophelia's Confession by Tracy Herd, the brilliant, confounding Bagpipe Music by Louis MacNeice, David Constantine's excoriating Pity The Bastards... I could go on, but better if I urge you to beg, steal or borrow this anthology and spend several months - just a few poems a day - going slowly through it to discover your own life in these pages.
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TOP 50 REVIEWERon 29 September 2014
Being Alive is a book to make you feel the force of poetry in the modern world, and its range is amazing. Each poem is an expansion of the mind, often provocative, always vital. It is the sense of being alive conveyed through language in all these unique voices, and has the advantage of accessibility, of the ease of rereading and seeing more, or seeing differently. If you feel daunted by poetry and were made to feel at school that the meanings were always beyond what you could see by yourself, this great collection will restore your faith in your own responses, and in the connection a poem can achieve in such a short space.
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VINE VOICEon 30 April 2010
I've loved poetry since childhood and Palgrave's Golden Treasury has stayed with me throughout school and university and life. This, the second anthology edited by Astley and published by the amazing Bloodaxe, is a superb collection of poems which celebrate life. Collated under various headings - Love Life, Being and Loss, Men and Women, Family, Daily Round etc - there is something here for everyone. It is a volume to keep by your bed and dip into. Many poets are represented here, some of them household names, some of them unknown (to me anyway)but all of them with something important to say. What always amazes me about poetry is that so much is said in so few words. I would recommmend this volume very highly.
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on 16 November 2004
Ever since I bought this book I have been carrying it around to dip into. Another eclectic mix of poems in 10 sections covering every aspect of life - including 'Daily Round', 'Love Life', 'Exploring the World'. There are poems of all types, some new names, some well known contemporary poets, and dotted about, a few old favourites like MacNeice, Auden, Larkin. Each subject is viewed from several angles, you're sure to find words that speak directly to you.
If you haven't read much poetry lately, take a look inside and find poets you may not have heard of but whose poems will become friends.
For those who read contemporary poetry, here are the names you know and lots more to whet your appetite.
A superb collection with enormous breadth and imaginatively arranged so the reader 'stumbles upon' new treasures at every reading. The best anthology out - every home should have a copy.
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on 18 August 2008
poetry that will inspire, intrigue, amuse, comfort, surprise, move and puzzle you! if you already love poetry, this book will be a complete joy and you'll be re-reading it again 5 minutes after you finish it. It's a wonderful collection.

if you think poetry's dull but like life, then get this book, get into your favourite chair, pour a glass of something delicious and have a great time reading about every aspect of life you can imagine - it's all here!
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on 3 April 2011
This is an excellent anthology that I can recommend 100%. Depending on where you are with poetry, this collection is on the whole more accessible than its earlier, sister publication, Staying Alive. But both take you right across the whole range of poetry, from the immediately clear poem to the poem you will need to work at a little. I would say Staying Alive is perhaps the more rewarding of the two books, but there is so much in Being Alive that I suggest you have to have it. You have to have it. Buy it. Why not buy both?
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on 4 January 2005
I bought the first book - Staying Alive and loved it. This is even better!! I keep it at my bedside and always dip in and read a few poems before I go to sleep. Its like having your own personal mentor/champion with you all the time! I can't get enough of this book.
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on 3 January 2011
Along with Staying Alive, this anthology of modern poetry introduces some of the the leading poets of our day in a way that even those who are unfamiliar with poetry, or think it isn't for them, wil just want to carry on reading and reading and reading. The way the poems are linked together is helpful and clever, stimulating you to look for the poem that suits your mood and which expresses just how you feel. Brilliant!!
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on 31 January 2010
As I hesitate over what to say about this collection, I realise that it's because the poems it contains use language so brilliantly that the same medium seems clumsy in my hands. I'm not a habitual reader of poetry and tend to be among those who 'don't get' much of modern poetry. But 'Being Alive' was recommended to me by a friend and it's changed my prejudices. I read from it every day, finding things all the time which chime with my own experience and illuminate aspects of living that I tend to take for granted. If you're only going to buy one book of poetry, buy this one.
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