Annal: 2011 Costa Book Award for Poetry

Results of the Costa Book Award in the year 2011.

Book:The Bees (Carol Ann Duffy)

The Bees

Carol Ann Duffy

The Bees is Carol Ann Duffy’s first collection of new poems as Poet Laureate, and the much-anticipated successor to the T. S. Eliot Prize-winning Rapture. After the intimate focus of the earlier book, The Bees finds Duffy using her full poetic range: there are drinking songs, love poems, poems to the weather, poems of political anger; her celebrated ‘Last Post’ (written for the last surviving soldiers to fight in the First World War) showed that powerful public poetry still has a central place in our culture. There are elegies, too, for beloved friends, and—most movingly—the poet’s own mother. As Duffy’s voice rises in this collection, her music intensifies, and every poem patterns itself into song.

Woven and weaving through the book is its presiding spirit: the bee. Sometimes the bee is Duffy’s subject, sometimes it strays into the poem, or hovers at its edge—and the reader soon begins to anticipate its appearance. In the end, Duffy’s point…[more]

Book:Fiere (Jackie Kay)

Fiere

Jackie Kay

Jackie Kay’s new collection is a lyric counterpart to her memoir, Red Dust Road, the extraordinary story of the search for her Nigerian and Highland birth-parents; but it is also a moving book in its own right, and a deep enquiry into all forms of human friendship. Fiere—Scots for ‘companion, friend, equal’—is a vivid description of the many paths our lives take, and of how those journeys are made meaningful by our companions on the road: lovers, friends, parents, children, mentors—as well as all the remarkable and chance acquaintances we would not otherwise have made. Written with Kay’s trademark wit and flair, and infused with both Scots and Igbo speech, it is also a fascinating account of the formation of a self-identity—and the discovery of a tongue that best honours it.

Musical and moving, funny and profound, Fiere is Jackie Kay’s most accomplished, assured and ambitious collection of poems to date.

Book:Night (David Harsent)

Night: Poetry

David Harsent

Among the poems that open Night, David Harsent’s follow-up to his Forward Prize-winning collection “Legion”, is a startling sequence about a garden—but a garden unlike any other. It sets the tone for a book in which the sureties of daylight become uncertain: dark, unsettling narratives about what wakes in us when we escape our day-lit selves to visit a place where the dream-like and the nightmarish are never far apart. The book culminates in the seductive and brilliantly-sustained ‘Elsewhere’, a noirish, labyrinthine quest-poem in which the protagonist is drawn ever onward through a series of encounters and reflections like an after-hours Orpheus, hard-bitten and harried by memory.

Book:November (Sean O'Brien)

November

Sean O'Brien

Showing O’Brien at the height of his powers, with his intellect and imagination as gratifyingly restless as ever, this collection is haunted by the missing, the missed, the vanished, the uncounted, and the uncountable lost—lost sleep, connections, muses, books, and the ghosts and gardens of childhood. Ultimately, the poet is led to contemplate the most troubling absences: O’Brien’s elegies for his parents and friends form the heart of this book, and are the source of its pervasive note of départ. Elsewhere—as if a French window stood open to an English room—the islands, canals, railway stations, and undergrounds of his landscape are swept by a strikingly Gallic air. This new note lends these recent poems a reinvigorated sense of the imaginative possible.

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