Annal: 2003 Whitbread Book Award for Poetry

Results of the Whitbread Book Award in the year 2003.

Book:Landing Light

Landing Light: Poems

Don Paterson

Dear son, I was mezzo del cammin
and the true path was as lost to me as ever
when you cut in front and lit it as you ran.
See how the true gift never leaves the giver…
—from “Waking with Russell”

Hailed for its “enormous skill and verve” (The Guardian) and its “seriousness and moral urgency” (The Independent), Landing Light is one of the most important and resonant poetry collections to come out of Britain in recent years. Ceaselessly inquiring, Don Paterson discovers the love of a son, a talking book, the voices of a wreckage left in the black box. In traditional forms, short lyrics, and long narratives, Paterson has crafted—with precision and passion—his most accomplished and spiritual collection.

Book:Hard Water

Hard Water

Jean Sprackland

Though firmly rooted in the domestic, natural world, Jean Sprackland’s poems are thrilling excursions into the lives that we live alongside our everyday ones: the lives we are aware of in dreams, in grief, in love. She shows us the vertigo and vulnerability of human experience with great clarity and precision, tenderness and care. These are vivid poems full of light and weather and water—awash with water: a flooded forest, acid rain, an inland tidal wave, an ocean of broken glass; jellyfish washed up on the beach that “lay like saints/unharvested, luminous”.

There is an arresting imagination at work here, one as relaxed and at home in an alternative world of babies in filing cabinets, light collectors or the visiting dead, as it is in the world we think we know: supermarkets, empty flats, the A580 from Liverpool to Manchester.

Lucid, sensuous and informed by an unusually tactile curiosity, the poems in Hard Water mark the assured arrival of an important poet.

Book:Ink Stone

Ink Stone

Jamie McKendrick

The best ink stones are slates from Chinese riverbeds, but in the long history of their use these have all been found. as one expert writes, “the better the stone, the smaller and more consistent the particles will be and the denser the ink”.

These poems by Jamie McKendrick have a remarkable density of ink. They explore the grain, or “tooth” of the natural world with unusual and discomforting detail at the same time as they chart the medium they work in—not only what the eye sees, but the eye itself: its structure and structurings. These poems open onto conflicting perspectives of home and abroad, the domestic and the wild, the natural and the uncanny, elegy and celebration.

Book:Minsk: Poems

Minsk: Poems

Lavinia Greenlaw

Minsk is Lavinia Greenlaw’s third collection, and the first since the title poem of A World Where News Travelled Slowly won the Forward Prize for the year’s finest poem of 1997. From London Zoo to an Essex village and the Arctic Circle, Greenlaw explores questions of place—the childhood landscapes we leave behind, those we travel towards, and those like “Minsk” which we believe to be missing from our lives. Greenlaw’s restless, inquisitive tone builds to make Minsk a hypnotic collection from one of the leading poets of her generation.

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