Results of the T.S. Eliot Prize in the year 2005.
The effortless virtuosity, drama, and humanity of Carol Ann Duffy’s verse have made her much-admired among contemporary poets. Her seventh collection is a book-length love-poem, and a moving act of personal testimony—but what sets these poems apart from other treatments of the subject is Duffy’s refusal to simplify the contradictions of love, and read its transformations—infatuation, longing, passion, commitment, rancor, separation, and grief—as either redemptive or destructive. This is a map of real love, in all its churning complexity, simultaneously direct and subtle, showing us that a song can be made of even the most painful episodes in our lives. With poems that will find deep resonance in the experience of most readers, it is a collection that can and does speak for us all.
In this emotional follow-up to The Zoo Father, a daughter is haunted by her mentally ill mother until a series of remarkable transformations help her to conquer painful childhood memories. Over the course of the collection, the feared mother becomes a rattlesnake, an Aztec goddess, a Tibetan singing bowl, a stalagmite, a praying mantis, and then a ghost orchid, yet in the central poem the daughter becomes a cosmic stag and escapes her mother-huntress.
Provocative and tender, passionate yet wary, the highly charged poems in Helen Farish’s first collection testify to the complex nature of relationships with lovers, with family and with the self. The love poems explore moments of intense exposure, and within the erotic relation seek to carve out a voice adequate to the expression of female sexuality and desire. Within this framework, the body itself becomes a rich and compelling site of inquiry. Posted throughout the collection like sentinels, poems on the death of the father draw the poet back home where grief mingles with surprising moments of grace or redemption. But whether the encounter concerns sudden loss or sudden blessing, constant throughout is a warm and boldly embodied lyric ‘I’ voice generously inviting the reader in. Poised at life’s mid-point, these haunting, haunted poems negotiate their emotional freight in carefully crafted forms which mediate between exposure and guardedness.
Expertly charting the geographies of sex and love, the histories of childhood and grief, Intimates introduces a new poet of originality, honesty and singular power.
The title sequence of David Harsent’s new collection offers reports from an unnamed war-zone. Throughout, various accounts of conflict accrue: a series of discrete images, voices, events, and intermittent despatches—immediate and vivid—that cohere to give witness to war and the consequences of war, and seem to lock the reader into the crisis along with the protagonists. In its formal mastery of the poetic sequence, Legion is a distinguished successor to David Harsent’s previous collection, Marriage.
A strange assortment of characters inhabit these poems, including George Mackay Brown, Johnny Cash, William Dampier, a lion-keeper in wartime Afganistan, and a shipload of sailors in a Shetland churchyard. The long central work of the collection provides an elegiac meditation on the life and death of a young soldier who succumbed to hypothermia during the Napoleonic Wars. Finally, and quite unexpectedly, the poem “Googlisms” provides an outpouring of quirky definitions from a website that collects information from the search engine Google.
Addressing the theme of imprisonment in various states-from actual prisons in 18th century Europe to the limits perceptions place on individual experiences-this collection of poems fully explores the intimate interiors of human relationships. Form and content, as well as the personal and the political, are blended throughout this collection with imagination and consummate skill. This collection concludes with a first person recounting of the life and works of the great prison reformer John Howard while detailing his vision for the moral regeneration of the corrupted human soul.
John’s second collection consolidates his reputation as one of the most unusual and intelligent imaginations now at work, and will build on the astonishing success of Panoramic Lounge-Bar. It’s a mature book, with more lyricism and allusion than PLB, but no less witty for it; powerful, moving and sometimes disturbing, it’s a journey through a labyrinth of memory, history and strange anecdote, written in Stammers’s trademark style—literary yet hip and immediate, with a real steetwise vibe, often English in its forms but transatlantic in its voice, and never less than wholly rivetting.
The landscape of Take Me With You is strange and dangerous, her narrators searching for answers to questions about the nature of human attachment and longing. Her acclaimed first book, Kiss, took the reader on a journey into the self: in this new collection, the journey turns outwards and explores the ways in which we connect with others and the wider world.
Polly Clark’s characters speak in many voices, both animal and human, bringing into focus the moments when we are most alive, and most alone. The poems are unsettling even as they are compelling, taking the reader from the last performance of a virtuoso octopus, to the dizzying industry of a Chinese city, to the vast and lonely seascapes of the Scottish coast.
In poems full of rooms and houses, where wily nature eludes the instinct to tame, the observing eye of an anthropologist is combined with an exuberant, daring, and endlessly playful imagination. There are houses of memory and houses of the future, houses that stand empty and houses crammed with the accumulations of life. From the clothes that house bodies to the atmosphere that clothes the universe, from the flush of a toilet to the colonization of Mars, these works look at juxtapositions of the unruly and the controlled. It is no accident that several of the poems are about coastal places or climate change. The ceaseless erosion of nature is an image of the impossibility of capture, with language the last barrier against decay and disappearance. In “Norfolk,” the pebbles on the beach, the pennies in a slot machine, and a boy’s wobbly tooth concatenate with enormous pathos as the boy’s realizes that life’s events do not match his desire.
Woods etc. is Alice Oswald’s third book of poems, and follows on from the success of her widely acclaimed river-poem, Dart. The poems in her new book compress this uniquely ruminative voice into a dazzlingly various sequence of lyrics about the natural order and the individual life within. Written over a period of several years, these poems combine abrupt honesty with an exuberant rhetorical confidence, at times recalling the oral and anonymous tradition with which they share such affinity.