Of Mutability by Jo Shapcott – tentative steps towards poetry

Of Mutability by Jo Shapcott, Faber 2010

Apparently, the Summer Reads programme put together by Writer’s Centre Norwich always includes a book of poetry. And among the slim volumes I picked up after the Learning to Love Poetry event were this year’s poetry pick and the one from last year.

Last year’s poetry book was Of Mutability by Jo Shapcott (Faber, 2010) and, rather to my surprise, I soon found myself hooked. I still don’t really feel competent to review a book of poetry, but I liked the honesty here, the turn of phrase and the rhythm. I expected to have to take the book slowly, and while I did try to stop and mull things over, I found myself pulled on from one page to the next.

I didn’t feel confronted by things I couldn’t understand, although I’m sure I was missing some stuff given the references to the art of Helen Chadwick and poems subtitled after Pushkin. What I did take from it was a reflection on mortality following Shapcott’s diagnosis with and treatment for cancer. It is not gloomy though, more a celebration of life and hope.

This was the Costa Book of the Year in 2010, surely quite a rare feat for the poetry winner to come out on top over all. While it doesn’t do to set too much store by literary prizes, that must say something about it’s readability all the same.

So here I am on my first tentative steps towards loving poetry. Where next? If I liked this, what else might I enjoy?

About forwardtranslations

I'm a freelance literary translator from German and French to English. The title of my blog comes from Mary Schmich's description of reading: it struck home with me, and seems especially apt for translated fiction. Here are some of my musings on what I'm reading, re-reading, reading to my children, and translating.
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