Jen Hadfield’s Nigh-No-Place was on my list of 2008 favourites, so I’m delighted that it won the T.S. Eliot Prize last night. It was a surprise result, I think, but a welcome one. Her work is distinctive, impossible to categorise, daring, and packed full of energy.
I reviewed Nigh-No-Place in Magma, issue 41. One thing that stood out for me was Jen’s ability to transform the way we might look on a landscape or object, particularly through metaphor and simile, so often overused or used without much point as a default mechanism in contemporary poetry. Nigh-No-Place contains so many good examples that it’s hard to know what to pick. Here’s a brief quote from my review:
In Prenatal Polar Bear, the bear “hangs in formaldehyde/ like a softmint or astronaut.” In Blashey-Wadder, the narrator crackles in her waterproof “like a roasting rack of lamb.” The wind, set free from its backpack prison in Odysseus and the Sou’wester is “a rising loaf of shuffled feathers/ struggling from the haversack/ like a furious swan.” In Hedgehog, Hamnavoe, the hedgehog is “a kidney flinching on a hot griddle,/ or like a very small Hell’s Angel, peeled from the verge/ of a sweet, slurred morning.”
Definitely a book worth picking up and reading closely.