Results of the T.S. Eliot Prize in the year 2008.
Hadfield began her new book on the hoof, travelling across Canada with a ravenous appetite for new landscapes. She took epic routes: the railway line from Halifax to Vancouver and the Dempster Highway’s 740 km of gravel road, ending in the Arctic oiltowns of Inuvik and Tuktoyuktuk. But it is in Shetland that she becomes acutely aware of her own voice—her fluency and tongue-tiedness; repetition, hiatus and breath.
Nigh-No-Place reflects the breadth of ground she’s covered. ‘Ten-minute Break Haiku’ is her response to working in a fish factory. ‘Paternoster’ is the Lord’s Prayer uttered by a draught-horse. ‘Prenatal Polar Bear’ takes place in Churchill, Manitoba, surrounded by tundra.
Many of the poems in Moniza Alvi’s Europa relate to ancient and modern traumas, including enforced exile, alienation, rape and “honor killing”. Its centrepiece is a re-imagining of the story of the rape of Europa by Jupiter as a bull. Her latest collection also includes a series of poems exploring post-traumatic stress disorder, and further versions of the French poet Jules Supervielle with their Second World War background. Europa is a dark, unified book whose poems move towards regeneration.
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.
Holding in balance the ecological and the technological, ancient and modern, Full Volume sings languages and cultures, people and habitats burgeoning on the brink of extinction. From revved-up battle-cry to nervous whisper, these lyrical poems praise intricate abundance. Assured in its rhymes and cadences, Full Volume is often attentive to poetry in other tongues, not least Gaelic. As their tones and forms shift from the spiritual to the wry, from haiku to brosnachadh, the poems’ resonance and music build into a sustained sounding of what it means to live, love, and listen in a world where ‘Nothing is ever single’.
Peter Bennet’s new collection unites skilful random rhyme and lightly handled traditional forms with characteristic imaginative power and dark humour. The poems combine an unusually broad range of reference with surprising intimacy, not least in the intricate sequence ‘Folly Wood’, which takes as a starting point the Twelve Gates of the English alchemist George Ripley.
In Hide Now, Glyn Maxwell shows how the times have begun to warp time itself: in the poet’s vision, the past rears up again with its angry ghosts, the present is racked by its martial and climatic nightmares, and the future has already come and gone. All the stories of the earth seem menaced by just one—to which nations cover their eyes and ears, and from which the grown-ups run and hide. Scheherazade, Robespierre, Dick Cheney and the Reverend Jim Jones all have their place here, though the book’s presiding genius is the lonely figure of Cassandra, cursed with knowing the fate of a world that finds her screamingly funny.
Glyn Maxwell has established an international reputation as one of the most intelligent and stylishly original English poets since Auden, and he has never written with greater urgency or power. “[Maxwell’s] astonishing technical facility can make syllables, vowels and consonants do absolutely anything. His energetic voice riffs through evasively ordinary speech taking on love, politics, comedy and bizarre narratives in brilliantly elaborate syntax and forms” —Independent
Maura Dooley’s poetry is remarkable for embracing both lyricism and political consciousness, for its fusion of head and heart. These qualities have won her wide acclaim. This new collection of poems takes in the physical landscape, family and friendship, as well as the transience of both folklore and politics. In part an attempt to speak of what is submerged, these poems welcome that `splash of cold water to the face’ that tells us we’re alive.
“No poet in Scotland now can take as his inspiration the folk impulse that created the ballads, the people’s songs, the legends of Mary Stuart and Prince Charlie,” proposed Edwin Muir. Yet many of the poems in Mick Imlah’s new collection do take the most over-worn of Scottish myths as their apparent starting points, spanning the Wallace and the Bruce; the Bonnie Prince (pivotal “Lost Leader” of the title), Robert Burns and Walter Scott; whisky, Clydeside and football. Imlah’s approach to this folklore is brilliantly fresh, a modern, sardonic but strongly-felt rendering of Scotland: from AD 500, by way of a guided tour of Iona, to yesterday at a Dumfries bus depot. And, as the chronicle reaches the twentieth century, the poems turn to friends and family—childhood reminiscences, elegies and celebrations—influenced still by sporting and military fantasy, the charm of history and the power of anachronism.
Deals with our mortal situation, the evanescent beauty of the world, desire’s transformative power and poetry’s ability to give shape to human lives. The poet listens to cicadas, to Handel, to the calling of birds, to Juan the loquacious Mexican taxi driver, and steeps himself in the colour and incident of the streets and subways of New York City.
Stressing the urgency and high stakes involved in poetic composition, each poem in this collection is a sharp peak of concentration where intellect and emotion battle for control. Triggered by things such as a love affair or a configuration of light, these short pieces attempt to record the mysterious and rare coincidences between the realm of idea and the world of perception.