Results of the Whitbread Book Award in the year 2005.
Helen, the world’s most beautiful woman, the wife of Lord Menelaos of Sparta, left Greece in the company of Paris, the son of Priam, King of Troy. To repossess her, a thousand Greek ships sailed to Troy. Nine years have passed. The Greeks have not achieved their aim. Indeed, after a quarrel between Achilles their leader and Agamemnon their king, the Trojans, led by Paris’s brother, Prince Hector, have driven the Greeks off the plain of Troy and back behind the palisade protecting their ships. Achilles refuses to help them. It is night…
The scene is set for Cold Calls, the fifth and penultimate instalment of Logue’s Homer, an ongoing project—a piece of performance-art for the page rather than the stage—which has taken several decades to unfold, and has been described by Derek Mahon as “Less a translation than an adaptation. Less an adaptation, in fact, than an original poem of considerable 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.
Natural landscapes through which love and lyricism flicker and flare are the backdrop for these poems. The sparrows, pigeons, and magpies of the urban periphery lighten the atmosphere as they edge the collection toward the city in the humorous elegy “Bird List,” while “Hand Held,” a personal and vulnerable piece, delicately celebrates the author’s experience of fathering a child with severe learning difficulties. The collection is filled out with pieces of love and memory, affirming in the end the luck intrinsic to survival.
Marabou, Jane Yeh’s first book of poems, is a meditation on the nature of artifice, and on the self. Her snapshots freeze fraught instants in the lives of a broad cast of characters: the horror movie mummy, an Elizabethan shoemaker, a flock of Cumbrian sheep; there’s Harry Potter’s owl and Oscar Wilde, two European princesses…In these beautifully crafted poems, her personae address the themes of love, lust, glamour and desperation with wit and flair. Hers is the language of fashion, espionage, revenge tragedy; her taut pressure-packed lines combine vivid detail and bold confession and reach unexpected emotional truths.