Many of the best poetry collections come from small presses and are by people who aren’t famous. Strange Horses (Flambard £8), the new collection by Oxford poet and tutor Olivia Byard, a former reviewer for The Oxford Times, is excellent.

Monsters lurk in these pages and there is a constant undertow of fear. A child struggles to breathe in intensive care, a prehistoric lemur is abandoned by her tribe, and no one ever forgets abuse. Only the ‘crimson scarf’ of poetry is a ‘powerful charm against the dark’.

Another fine Oxford-based poet is David Olsen, an American whose New World Elegies is published by Finishing Line Press. He writes about the darker side of New World history, like the Great Depression and the Salem Witch Trials, and also (with a nod to Wilfred Owen) about how we distance ourselves from contemporary horrors like Iraq. ‘White Place’ is an extraordinary poem about the possible experience of the mind before death.

Reading Simon Curtis, editor of Interpreter’s House magazine, whose second collection Devil Among the Tailors is published by the excellent Shoestring Press at £8, is pure pleasure. Not that he is indifferent to pollution, bankers and bereavement, but he is so witty and such a good rhymester that people like me, who like traditional forms, will keep re-reading him. The shades of Hardy, Horace and Gilbert White are in the background, and he describes plants, stars, empty churches and Latin textbooks with affection but also irony. And, with less affection, teenagers who throw eggs from cars at passers-by. This is definitely one to give to readers who think they can’t understand modern poetry.

* Jem Poster, former head of Oxford University's creative writing programme, will be in conversation with a range of poets, including Simon Armitage and Lavinia Greenlaw at Oxford Literary Festival from March 24 to April 1. Box office 0870 343 1001,