Tuesday, 20 January 2009

Jen Hadfield wins T.S. Eliot prize

I was delighted to hear that Jen Hadfield was awarded the 2009 T.S. Eliot prize for her second collection, Nigh-No-Place. The collection is remarkable because of its high spirits and engagement with the natural world. There's an innocence and openness in the poems' abandon which it is difficult not to ascribe to the personality of the author. Her art is essentially mimetic in style and naive in substance. For instance, she writes about herself wearing long johns, which are 'like bread-pudding' (how homely, how cute).

She writes about dogs, cats, places, horses, the sea, water. Favouring rhymes, creating neologisms through compounding words and throwing in the odd word of Gaelic, her work moves close to nonsense verse because of the attraction that sing-song rhymes have for her:

Towhee, Towhee, come in for tea
She hangs her head like a sacred donkey.

(Towhee)

or

Hey bear!
Hey bear!
A godawful wriggly thing fell in Moira's hair
(Kodachrome)

It's always good to meet poetry which is fun to speak aloud and fills the mouth with delicious vowel sounds and this collection and its success should be welcomed by every lover of poetry. I do wonder how Jen Hadfield will develop and whether she can still move on from the epiphanies which her poetry currently represents to more reflective verse. Charm like this is rare - and rightly highly prized (bad pun, sorry) - but rarely long-lived.

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