Annal: 2013 Costa Book Award for Poetry

Results of the Costa Book Award in the year 2013.

Book:The Divine Comedy (Clive James)

The Divine Comedy

Clive James, Dante Alighieri

Renowned poet and critic Clive James presents the crowning achievement of his career: a monumental translation into English verse of Dante’s The Divine Comedy.

The Divine Comedy is the precursor of modern literature, and this translation—decades in the making—gives us the entire epic as a single, coherent and compulsively readable lyric poem. Written in the early fourteenth century and completed in 1321, the year of Dante’s death, The Divine Comedy is perhaps the greatest work of epic poetry ever composed.

Divided into three books—Hell, Purgatory and Heaven—the poem’s allegorical vision of the afterlife portrays the poet’s spiritual crisis in terms of his own contemporary history, in a text of such vivid life and variety that modern readers will find themselves astounded in a hundred different ways. And indeed the structure of this massive single song…[more]

Book:Division Street

Division Street

Helen Mort

“A stone is lobbed in ‘84, hangs like a star over Orgreave. Welcome to Sheffield. Border-land, our town of miracles”. (’Scab’).

From the clash between striking miners and police to the delicate conflicts in personal relationships, Helen Mort’s stunning debut is marked by distance and division. Named for a street in Sheffield, this is a collection that cherishes specificity: the particularity of names; the reflections the world throws back at us; the precise moment of a realisation. Distinctive and assured, these poems show us how, at the site of conflict, a moment of reconciliation can be born.

Book:Drysalter

Drysalter

Michael Symmons Roberts

Michael Symmons Roberts’ sixth—and most ambitious collection to date—takes its name from the ancient trade in powders, chemicals, salts and dyes, paints and cures. These poems offer a similarly potent and sensory multiplicity, unified through the formal constraint of 150 poems of 15 lines.

Like the medieval psalters echoed in its title, this collection contains both the sacred and profane. Here are hymns of praise and lamentation, songs of wonder and despair, journeying effortlessly through physical and metaphysical landscapes, from financial markets and urban sprawl to deserts and dark nights of the soul.

From an encomium to a karaoke booth to a conjuration of an inverse Antarctica, this collection is a compelling, powerful search for meaning, truth and falsehood. But, as ever in Roberts’ work—notably the Whitbread Award-winning Corpus—this…[more]

Book:Hill of Doors

Hill of Doors

Robin Robertson

Charged with strangeness and beauty, Hill of Doors is a haunted and haunting book, where each successive poem seems a shape conjured from the shadows, and where the uncanny is made physically present.

The collection sees the return of some familiar members of the Robertson company, including Strindberg—heading, as usual, towards calamity—and the shape-shifter Dionysus. Four loose retellings of stories of the Greek god form pillars for the book, alongside four short Ovid versions. Threaded through these are a series of pieces about the poet’s childhood on the north-east coast, his fascination with the sea and the islands of Scotland. However, the reader will also discover a distinct new note in Robertson’s austere but ravishing poetry: towards the possibility of contentment—a house, a door, a key—finding, at last, a ‘happiness of the hand and heart’.

Magisterial in its command and range, indelibly moving and memorable in its speech, Hill of Doors is Robin Robertson’s most powerful book to date.

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