Annal: 2008 Costa Book Award for Poetry

Results of the Costa Book Award in the year 2008.

Book:The Broken Word

The Broken Word

Adam Foulds

Set in the 1950s, The Broken Word is an extraordinary poetic sequence that animates and illuminates a dark, terrifying period in British colonial history.The combination here of language and imagery that feel utterly contemporary, and subject matter—tribal violence and subsequent retribution—that seems almost Homeric, gives the narrative all the febrile energy of classical drama, re-charged and re-imagined.

Tom has returned to his family’s farm in Kenya for the summer vacation between school and university when he is swept up by the events of the Mau Mau uprising. Beginning with sporadic, brutal attacks by dispossessed Kikuyu on the British now occupying their land—attacks often executed with nothing more than traditional panga knives—the conflict escalates as the terrified British stop at nothing to re-impose order, eventually driving most of the Kikuyu population into the prison camps of what has become…[more]

Book:For All We Know

For All We Know

Ciaran Carson

Ciaran Carson’s For All We Know is a pas de deux of two lovers, of the very poems themselves, that moves between personal attraction and betrayal against memories of the Troubles and other historical events (the 60s, the Second World War). This mysterious book of dialogues evokes Paris, Dresden and other European cities, while citing Cold War thrillers, fairy stories, popular music, and the art of the fugue. Ciaran Carson is one of the most versatile and imaginative contemporary poets writing in English. For All We Know is a virtuoso display of his powers.

Book:Salvation Jane

Salvation Jane

Greta Stoddart

At the heart of many of these poems lies an apprehension of things being lost or destroyed, and with this a need for consolation. The question of how we look for, or create, such solace—whether in faith or the rain, by doing a puzzle or watching TV—is one that threads through the book.

In this her second collection there is an increasing scope and depth to language as Stoddart seeks to explore paradoxes: poems of motherhood are double-edged celebrations, grief must come to some good. The ambivalence at work in her first book comes to intriguing fruition here in a collection of original and distinctive poems.

Greta Stoddart’s first book At Home in the Dark won the Geoffrey Faber Memorial Prize in 2002. She lives in Devon and works as a poetry tutor.

Book:Sunday at the Skin Launderette

Sunday at the Skin Launderette

Kathryn Simmonds

Quietly persuasive and formally adept, the poems in Kathryn Simmonds’ first collection engage with both the quotidian and the transcendental. Often in urban or suburban settings, her protagonists struggle with mundane tasks such as cooking or commuting or office work—all of the obstacles of modernity—and then, by some shift of attention, or by some keen narrowing of focus, they chance upon the surreal or the spiritual. This is a poetry of subtle contexts and allusions, as much as concerned with the vulnerability of the body as for the fate of the soul and the idea of “keeping faith” in God and life.

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