Poetry round-up: Shetland landscapes to river gods

Reviews: Jen Hadfield, Kayo Chingonyi, Charlotte Mew, Moyra Donaldson, Moya Cannon

Kayo Chingonyi’s A Blood Condition follows his Dylan Thomas Prize winning 2017 debut Kumukanda.

Kayo Chingonyi’s A Blood Condition follows his Dylan Thomas Prize winning 2017 debut Kumukanda.

The Stone Age (Picador, 80pp, £10.99), Jen Hadfield’s third collection, is an astonishing book. Cultivating a tactile, fully-inhabited vision of the Shetland landscape, it confirms Hadfield’s place amongst the finest poets writing today. As with Nigh-No-Place (2008) and Byssus (2014), The Stone Age is never squeamish, never rose-tinted, but has a dark, almost Rabelaisian undertow.

There are subtle erotics to Hadfield’s poems here too, a sensory attention that leaps on occasion into exclamation. “Pleasure”, she writes, with a knowing wink, “is a kelp-hung arch, glittered / constantly by the licking of the wave.” These are poems the reader can plunge through. As the stanzas drop down the page, there is a sense of controlled submersion, a journeying through time, through elements, that is rendered with utter skill, by turns bodily, non-human, and disorientating. In Nudibranch, the speaker slips, naked, “into the rockpool’s closet”:

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