I’ve said it once and I’ll say it again: I do not envy the people who have to choose the winner of the Sunday Times/University of Warwick Young Writer of the Year Award. The shortlist is absolutely awesome, every book on this list is so powerful.
I’ve recently found myself thinking about the notion of whether poetry is technically fiction or non-fiction. Obviously it isn’t usually categorised this way, but I’ve been thinking it over anyway. The reality is that it just not cannot be put into these sorts of categories because whatever the topic, poetry as an art form cracks open the poet’s shell and lets us grasp for meaning from their runny yolk which, if you’re not careful, could slip through your fingers.
Surge was so personal and heartfelt in this way, despite technically veering on the side of historical fiction given that it’s a reflection and creative reimagining of the experiences gleaned from research Jay Bernard did on the New Cross Fire of 1981, and the line that can be drawn from this period of rife race relations in Britain to the Grenfell Tower fires.
Surge shows the power language can have on consciousness, and is simultaneously a work of remembrance and activism. I read some poems and felt an immediate surge of power and sorrow, I read some didn’t understand them until three reads later where they sang to me rather than just spoke to me, and on finishing I immediately craved hearing the poet’s own voice because I felt like I knew it so well already.
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