These are poems of great personal force connecting our aspirations with our humanity, helping us stay alive to the world and stay true to ourselves.
Staying Alive has reached a wider readership than any other anthology of contemporary poetry. It is a landmark in the history of literary publishing, selling over 150,000 copies in Britain and America.
Both Being Alive and Staying Alive have been welcomed not only by poets but by a wide range of well-known people respected for their work in fields other than poetry – all avid readers of poetry.
"Staying Alive is a magnificent anthology... 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."
"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."
"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."
"Truly startling and powerful poems."
"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."
"The best anthology I’ve read or am likely to read… devastating."
Michael Colgan, Irish Times (Books of the Year)
"I don’t often read poetry, so Staying Alive was a revelation."
Ian Rankin, Sunday Telegraph (Books of the Year)
"I love Staying Alive and keep going back to it..."
"This brilliantly varied anthology of 20th century poetry (and its sister volume Being Alive) are a source of enduring delight. Skilfully edited by Astley, it contains more than 500 poems, organised thematically, and is definitely one for the bedside table."
Independent on Sunday
The Times of 14 November 2009 included Staying Alive: real poems for unreal times in its list of the best 100 books of the last decade. It came in at number 64, and was the only poetry anthology selected.
“… this varied and versatile anthology compiled by Neil Astley led thousands to discover in contemporary poetry a source of rapture and solace that was of relevance to their modern life.”
"We tend to think of poetry as a solitary expression but Astley has entered these disparate poets’ voices into a kind of conversation, sometimes whispered and sidelong, at other times raucous, riotous and downright saucy. Happily, there’s nothing exclusive about this volume of poetic chimes, its appeal strikes me as near universal. I’ve had it nine years and it still yields unexpected fruit. I’ve gifted it to many and hear it back from each reader as something else. It’s a lucky bag of a book that rewards every hand that dips."
Carmel Winters, The Irish Times
Neil Astley is editor of Bloodaxe Books, which he founded in 1978. His books include two poetry collections and several anthologies, including Staying Alive: real poems from unreal times (2002), Pleased to See Me: 69 very sexy poems (2002), Do Not Go Gentle: poems for funerals (2003), Being Alive: the sequel to Staying Alive (2004), Passionfood: 100 Love Poems (2005), Soul Food: nourishing poems for starved minds [with Pamela Robertson-Pearce] (2007), Earth Shattering: ecopoems (2007) and the DVD-book In Person: 30 Poets, filmed by Pamela Robertson-Pearce (2008). Being Human, the third anthology of the Staying Alive 'trilogy', is due from Bloodaxe in 2011. He has published two novels, The End of My Tether (Flambard, 2002), which was shortlisted for the Whitbread First Novel Award, and The Sheep Who Changed the World (Flambard, 2005). He received an Eric Gregory Award for his poetry and was given a D.Litt from Newcastle University for his work with Bloodaxe Books. He lives in Northumberland.