Tag Archives: Sarah Howe

Young Writer of the Year Award 2016 (And Shadow Judging It)

This morning the four titles eligible for The Sunday Times/Peters Fraser Dunlop Award (quite a mouthful but bear with it because it is a wonderful prize) have been announced. Now before I go onto introduce them, I just thought you might like to know what qualifies for the prize, because if you are anything like me this stuff fascinates you. The basic rules are that £5000 is awarded to a work of fiction, non-fiction or poetry by an author of 35 years or under. The winning book being an work of outstanding literary merit. Last year the prize was won by Sarah Howe with Loop of Jade a collection of poetry which I was rather a big fan of.

So what about the shortlist this year, which I am going to be one of the official Shadow Judges for (more on that below), well let me share the wonderfully eclectic list of titles with you now…

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I have read all four of them already, so there may be a giveaway of a set at some point, though Jessie Greengrass is in my small pile of ‘reviews to finally tweak and put up on the blog’ so that review will be coming soon. I have linked to all the others above. What I can say about them as a collective is a) they are all rather marvellous b) they all do some really innovative (a marmite word I know but true) things with their form be they poetry, a novel, a collection of short stories, or in one case a mix of them all c) the judges are going to have a very difficult time choosing one of these winners… and so are the shadow panel, of which I am one.

Yes, thrillingly I am one of the inaugural official Shadow Judges (which I think sounds quite mystical/magical, like I can summon myself in a shadow and appear anywhere at anytime, possibly now sounding ominous oops) this year along side the wonderful Kim of Reading Matters, Eric of LonesomeReader, Naomi of The Writes of Women and Charlie of The Worm Hole, Dan Dalton will be joining us as a chair for a very exciting official shadow meeting. You can find out more about us as a collective here. We will be discussing, debating and convening over the next few weeks before we announce our winner a few days before the official winner is revealed in early December. So that is going to be great. I am planning on dipping into all four of them again over the forthcoming weeks.

So which of the titles have you read and what did you make of them? Which of these that you haven’t read hold a certain appeal to you? Do let me know and we can have a natter about them in the comments below.

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Loop of Jade – Sarah Howe

I am a late bloomer when it comes to poetry. I still find it slightly difficult to talk about because I think the reactions that you have to poetry are rather different to ones you have to novels and short stories and more like the ones you have to art. More often than not, though I would like to caveat that this isn’t always the case, my reactions to poetry is very immediate. I either like it or I don’t, it resonates with me or it doesn’t. I hate going to art galleries with people for this reason, I will whizz through a collection muttering ‘no, no, no’ and then happily spend an hour or more just sat staring at one. I tend to do this with poems. So when I found out Sarah Howe had won the Young Writer of the Year Award I promptly pulled it off the shelves to have a read.

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Chatto and Windus, 2015, paperback, poetry, 80 pages, kindly sent by FMcM

Loop of Jade is a really interesting collection as in one sense it is a collection of poems that tell the story of Howe herself going back to her childhood and roots in Hong Kong, in another it is a collection about her mother’s past and it is also a collection that seemed (to me) to celebrate history, or herstory, itself. Yes, I know, that sounds quite grand doesn’t it yet there is really no other way to try and put the collection. Especially as with Howe’s debut these poems all  feel like they relate to each other more than many collections I have come across, with some poems talking to ones prior to them and some to ones ahead of them before the reader realises it, for example Crossing from Guangdong and Islands.

Interestingly those two have much in common as they are both about the history of Hong Kong and both take on a fascinating look at the landscape, culture and the imagery we have of it on the other side of the world, which of course makes sense with Howe’s dual nationality and backgrounds. It was this twist and edge to a lot of the poems that I really liked, so much so some about the mystical past of Hong Kong were amongst my favourites. I loved the added flavour and twist that this gives to the collection.

It is not just history from Asia that Howe writes about. Greek and Roman classical elements with poems like Sirens, Death of Orpheus, (h) The present classification and Pythagora’s Curtain all have that feel. We don’t stop there though, there are also nod to Egyptian history as well as some western history, The Countess of Pembroke’s Arcadia. Maybe my earlier comparison between a poetry collection and an art gallery is wrong with Loop of Jade it is more like taking a wonder around the wonders of the world housed in a museum. Yet world history is not all, there are many in this collection that speak to a much more personal history like Mother’s Jewellery Box.

It should be no surprise that any poetry collection is about language but there are some of Howe’s poems which really hit home its powers. From simple word play like Start with the Weather which starts every stanza with ‘whether’ to Drawn with a very fine camelhair brush which looks at lost languages and how they are created. She also uses the forms of her words in really interesting ways, most noticeably in title poem Loop of Jade where one poem is intersperse with another and then suddenly takes on a whole new form. To all Laments and Purposes is like something I imagine Ali Smith’s poetry is like, shame on me that I have not read any, there is so much word play in it.

Many of Howe’s poems also stand like short paragraph length stories (Crocodile, Innumerable) and occasionally I wondered if this collection was a mixture of verse and short stories. I wonder if anyone who has read this feels the same way? Regardless, Howe is clearly aware of the power and poignancy of language, words and form and also wants to experiment with them and see what happens, which I liked very much along with her writing and lines like Dying is such thirsty work and this snail’s slow ribbon turns the asphalt into gold.

I mentioned earlier that I find poetry collections like art galleries (or should we scratch that to museums as discussed?) and there were several in particular which I lingered on. Crossing from Guangdong I could read many a time for its descriptions of place and also how it looks at combined and contrasting cultural heritage with east vs west and east meets west. In the same vein but much briefer and sharper Suckling pigs had me giggling to the point of appropriately almost snorting. [There were barnacles…] is also a gorgeous para-poem (as I am now calling them) about the humble and not often celebrated creature of our rock pools. Embalmed is a wonderful piece of history told in poems I have read.

There was one poem in particular that I could read over and over and over again… Tame, a poem-cum-myth-cum-fairytale which just completely enchanted me. I think in part this is because I love myths and fairy tales and so it instantly chimed with that sensibility in me. There is more to Tame than that though, it is probably one of the most full and poignant poems I have read. Short and yet epic with its ability to tell an entire story, throwing in so much atmosphere and character you cannot help but be moved by it even though it’s quite macabre – as all good myths and fairytales should be. It embodies everything that is wonderful in Howe’s writing in one large concentrated dose. I have read it more than ten times already. Stunning.

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Winner of Young Writer of the Year Award 2015

Just under two hours ago Sarah Howe was announced as the Sunday Times/Peters Fraser & Dunlop Young Writer of the Year Award 2015 with her collection of poetry, Loop of Jade. A huge, huge congrats to her and a huge, huge kick to myself who was going to try and fit this collection in before the announcement (not because I knew, as if, because it was the shortest and I wanted to have read at least one of them) but have sadly not found the time. Maybe this weekend. Anyway, huge congrats again to Sarah…

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…And indeed to all the shortlisted authors because (as I said at The Green Carnation Prize winner announcement and party earlier this week) being shortlisted and longlisted from lots and lots of books is a marvellous thing too! Speaking of shortlists though, you may also remember that I promised to give a signed set of the shortlisted books away. If you have forgotten what the titles were, let me remind you they were; Ben Fergusson with The Spring of Kasper Meier, the aforementioned Sarah Howe with Loop of Jade, Sunjeev Sahota with The Year of the Runaways and Sara Taylor with The Shore.

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Well I have used random.org and I can reveal that the winner of the signed shortlisted titles is… Zeudytigre! If you email me with your details I will get these sent out asap so they can be with you before Christmas, a lovely early present or four!  Commiserations to everyone else. Do let me know if you have read any of these though, I shamefully have not (yet) read one of them – but I want to read all four, so the intention is there, ha!

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Young Writer of the Year Award 2015 (Who Would Like To Win A Signed Set of the Shortlist?)

I have been feverishly lost in the world of sneezes and coughs for the last week and so missed the announcement of The Sunday Times/Peters Fraser & Dunlop Young Writer of the Year Award 2015 (wow that’s a mouthful)  shortlist earlier in the week for authors under 35. The four shortlisted authors and their works are…

  • Ben FergussonThe Spring of Kasper Meier, a critically acclaimed historical fiction debut
  • Sarah HoweLoop of Jade, a poetic exploration of heritage and identity
  • Sunjeev SahotaThe Year of the Runaways, his Man Booker shortlisted second novel
  • Sara TaylorThe Shore, a Baileys-nominated collection of interlinked short stories

Now I have to admit that I have all three of these on my shelves (well Sarah Howe popped through my letterbox yesterday which was nice of her) but have yet to get around to any of them because clearly I am a fool. I do like the sound of all four of them. I know Rob of Adventures with Words loved the Fergusson and Kate has raved about the Taylor, obviously Sahota was up for the Booker and the Howe was new to me but exciting (and slightly petrifying as its poetry which I always think I am rubbish at understanding yet really enjoy) because I hadn’t heard of it and wanted to know more.

Anyway, before I move on to giving away a signed set of all four of the books and how you can win them, I will just flag up the fact that if you happen to be in London the on Monday then there is a special free Foyles event happening with 3 of the shortlisted authors and 3 previous winners, who will be in conversation with Sunday Times Literary Editor Andrew Holgate more here http://www.foyles.co.uk/Public/Events/Detail.aspx?eventId=2689. I wish I could go, I’m quite jealous. The winner will then be announced at a ceremony on Thursday 10th December.

So, the question you now all want to know, how can you win a signed set of the four shortlisted titles? Well I thought I would make it simple… ish. I say ish because I was going to do a post around it and struggled, though this might have been because I was off my face on Lemsip. Anyway. What I would love you to do is tell me who your favourite author under 35 is and why, recommendations of their titles would be a delight too! Good luck, you have until midnight GMT on Friday the 27th of November!

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