Results of the Costa Book Award in the year 2010.
Jo Shapcott’s award-winning first three collections, gathered in “Her Book: Poems 1988-1998”, revealed her to be a writer of ingenuous, politically acute and provocative poetry, and rightly earned her a reputation as one of the most original and daring voices of her generation. In Of Mutability, Shapcott is found writing at her most memorable and bold. In a series of poems that explore the nature of change—in the body and the natural world, and in the shifting relationships between people—these poems look freshly but squarely at mortality. By turns grave and playful, arresting and witty, the poems in Of Mutability celebrate each waking moment as though it might be the last, and in so doing restore wonder to the to the smallest of encounters.
The poems in this remarkable first collection have been hard won: ‘Fruits of much grief they are,’ as Donne said, ‘emblems of more.’ Having lost ten years to heroin addiction and recovery, Sam Willetts emerges now—suddenly, and apparently from nowhere—as a fully-fledged and significant English poet.
In a book deeply conscious of history, one series of poems tracks his mother’s escape, as a young girl, from the Nazis, in a narrative that moves from a Stuka attack on the Smolensk Road to the Krakow ghetto, the destruction of Warsaw, to Nuremberg and Nagasaki and, finally, his mother’s grave. Other poems address Englishness, secular Jewishness, and the childhood pleasures of Oxfordshire—an increasingly deceptive pastoral, stalked and eventually shattered by heroin, which brings a grim new existence among dealers and users. The redemption the poet finds, through detox and rehab, love and writing, is full of regret for the years…[more]
Roy Fisher is known internationally for his witty, anarchic poetry which plays the language, pleasures the imagination, and teases the senses. In Standard Midland, he confronts and worries at nuances of perception and the politics of understanding. Many of the poems are concerned with landscapes: experienced, imagined, or painted, particularly the scarred and beautiful North Midlands landscape in which he has lived for nearly thirty years.
Robin Robertson’s fourth collection is, if anything, an even more intense, moving, bleakly lyrical, and at times shocking book than “Swithering”, winner of the Forward Prize. These poems are written with the authority of classical myth, yet sound utterly contemporary: the poet’s gaze—whether on the natural world or the details of his own life—is unflinching and clear, its utter seriousness leavened by a wry, dry and disarming humour. Alongside fine translations from Neruda and Montale and dynamic (and at times horrific) retellings of stories from Ovid, the poems in “The Wrecking Light” pitch the power and wonder of nature against the frailty and failure of the human. Ghosts sift through these poems—certainties become volatile, the simplest situations thicken with strangeness and threat—all of them haunted by the pressure and presence of the primitive world against our own, and the kind of dream-like intensity of description that has become Robertson’s trademark. This is a book of considerable grandeur and sweep which confirms Robertson as one of the most arresting and powerful poets at work today.