Beauty/Beauty: Shortlisted for the T S Eliot Prize 2015


By Rebecca Perry                          A Graph Review, 55 with high spots to 65

Bloodaxe Books

beauty beauty cover£9.95           Paperback              978 178037145

A first collection; 42 poems divided into seven sections with interestingly enigmatic headings such as: The human heart is curved like a road: when a dog goes to heaven the stars are green : I am cargo.  Headings that are lines from poems within them, I discovered.

All the poems contain degrees of emotion, frequently loss of a lover or familial figure, heightened or subdued.  Full of nostalgic memories, times gone by with sometimes harsh realities softened by recollection of the  emotion of the day.  The outside world sometimes breaking in as cold rain, or sunshine, through an open skylight.  Linelengths vary from short to full width. The full width lines are usually broken horizontally,  fragmented to give a broken, faltering flow to the rhythm.  This is a nice alternative to more common vertical, staccato lines.  Rhyme is not relevant, as is often the way but content sits well in this format.
I wasn’t sure where I stood on this collection by midway.  Maybe contents all too similar, no not that.  Perhaps the lack of rhyme anywhere and lines that didn’t quite catch my full attention?  But here is storytelling with the divergence of imagination. By half-way I realised I enjoyed the writing but had not caught a spark that I had expected.

And then my old mind-set was loosened and the poems took flight.  It was the reader, not the rhythm.

From Pepo onwards the poems seemed better and better.  I had been missing the fact that this was storytellingthat developed and was merged with trails of crackling imagination that overlaid and emphasised the definitions of loss, memory, even of youth.  The world was in abundance.  So, I am delighted I caught up, or rather fell in with the spirit of the writing.

Here is a young poet, with a first collection and a sincere feel for poetry of tenderness and the natural world, plus shards that prove a pleasing confidence in her writing.

My favourite in the first half:   Sweetheart, come       and from section 4 is    Pepo.
Next sections offering:     Shifting,     The execution of lady Jane Grey    (superb simplicity)           and       Estrapade

The above were my first-time-around favourites.

This was from a first time reading only so now I will have the pleasure of re-reading a worthy shortlist entry for TS Eliot 2015 Prize.



T S Eliot Prize 2015 Shortlist: Loop of Jade

Loop of Jade.                            Shortlisted for TS Eliot prize 2015

By Sarah Howe                                A Graph Review, 60 with assorted highs to 70

loop of jade coverChatto Poetry      £10.     paperback    978 070118869 6

37 poems.       Plus notes

The opening page starts with a paragraph extracted from Jorge Luis Borges, you may wonder why:  Turn the page and the contents list, like the first poem  ‘A Mothers Jewellery Box’ opens into a series of intriguing titles that in themselves tease the reader into expectation, but of what?  An excitement that something different is in store. That’s what.

Such titles as:

Loop of jade,     Sirens,     Stray dogs          Drawn with a very fine camel hair brush

As you read through the variety of poems, each’s contents leads you step by vivid step into a real world laced with a sense the poet is peeling memories in search of the one thing that will disclose her essence of ‘being’.

For me, Yangtze sums up the search with the idea of memories snagged from a thriving past, now lost and hidden, eroding over time, only glimpsed by touched senses and the mind’s eye.
Many nicely unexpected words, known but not readily used and one that really came back to life was ‘scumbled’.  The beauty and excitement of this poet is her reaction, the somehow blurring yet juxtaposition of idea and image.  With the series of poems flitting from old China (sorry this is really an inaccuracy but best I can do simply) to the Now, and the UK and the West and Hongkong and its position, it’s memory, as a colony and its slipping into modern China.

I had the immense pleasure of spending (several) occasional months in Hongkong in the Nineties and her scenes bring back the glimpses of the old China we saw and the progress that was hurtling through the island and the mainland.  For me it was a sensation to be felt forever and it is so good to read where connections intertwine.  But then I read from an almost polar view and imagination.

For me, a stunning debut, crossing time, worlds and investigating the meaning of self.
For me, a worthy shortlisting and potential winner of the T S Eliot 2015 Poetry prize.








T S Eliot Prize for Poetry 2015 Shortlist Announced

Good news for  10 poets with this recent announcement but still time for you to read their work before the winner is discovered on 11th January, 2016.
This year the chair of Judges is Pascale Petit, the other judges are Kei Miller and Ahren Warner.

beauty beauty coverThe shortlist of 10 was chosen from a total of 142 books submitted.  The Poetry Book Society pointed out that short listed poets included were of international stature and indeed of international origins such as Australia, Jamaica and the US.  The 10 also contained two Scots, four previous winners and two first collections.


The shortlist:

Mark Doty: Deep Lane    (Cape Poetry)deep love cover
Tracey Herd: Not in this World    (Bloodaxe)
Selima Hill: Jutland    (Bloodaxe)
Sarah Howe: Loop of Jade    (Chatto & Windus)
Tim Liardet: The World Before Snow    (Carcanet)
Les Murray: Waiting for the Past    (Carcanet)
Sean O’Brien: The Beautiful Librarians    (Picador)
Don Pateson: 40 Sonnets    (Faber)
Rebecca Perry: Beauty/Beauty    (Bloodaxe)
Claudia Rankine: Citizen; An American Lyric    (Penguin)

The winner will be announced on Monday 11th January 2016.  The successful poet will receive a cheque for £20,000, donated by the TS Eliot Estate.  Shortlisted poets will each receive £1500.

(T S Eliot Estate increased its support for 2015 to become  the sole supporter of this prize.)

citizen cover2Claudia Rankine of Jamaica won the recent Forward Prize with Citizen and also the NBCC award in the US.

Loop of Jade and Beauty/Beauty are the ‘first collections’ and toward the other end of the  scale; Deep Lane, is the ninth collection of the well respected American poet, Mark Doty, also a previous winner of this prize.  Murray and O’Brien have also previously won the T S Eliot Prize and so too has Don Paterson (twice).loop of jade cover

The chair, Pascale Petit was fulsome with praise of all submissions saying “This is a fantastic year for poetry…….many that didnt make it are books we love.  But we were unanimous about our final list.” and of the short list…….”every book on the list is so ambitious- they’re reaching for the stars”.

‘The T S Eliot Prize Readings’.  Will take place on Sunday 10th January, 2016 at the Royal Festival Hall, Southbank Centre, London.

Note,  I include some covers to lighten the page, I am not offering any opinion by it.