Through November and December, we’re casting a weekly spotlight on some of the best books based or published in the East of England, courtesy of the East Anglian Book Awards 2023.
Now in their sixteenth year, the awards celebrate the very best of publishing, writing, and reading in the region. The East Anglian Book Awards are a partnership between Jarrolds, the Eastern Daily Press, and the National Centre for Writing, supported by UEA Faculty of Arts & Humanities.
Judged by Shannon Clinton-Copeland, writer, poet and researcher
For anyone interested in queer nature writing…
Wild Life by James McDermott (Nine Arches Press)
Wild Life by James McDermott explores the nature of queerness, the queerness of nature, and the queerness of ‘natural’ masculinity. In bold poems that root themselves firmly in the coastal landscapes of North Norfolk, a vivid and radical dialogue between nature, sexuality and self-discovery emerges.
Our judge said:
‘I have enjoyed so much of McDermott’s poetry before, and this collection was no exception. There is immediately a strong sense of voice, emotion and theme as soon as you begin this collection. McDermott has a great handle on the double meanings of language and uses them to really great effect. The poems in this collection are deeply personal and intimate, capturing queer life and experience in a way that forces a world that has gazed for eons with little judgement at heteronormative depictions of desire with little care to see, really see, the vivid and important lives of queer folk.’
For fans of poetry based on the Norfolk landscape…
Before the Dreadful Daylight Starts: An Anthology of Norfolk Poetry by Cameron Self and Kevin Gardner (Waterland Books)
This beautiful poetry anthology contains over 130 Norfolk inspired poems in 7 sections: Coast, Broads and Rivers, Norwich and County Towns, History and People, Rhymes, Epitaphs and Limericks, Churches and Houses and Landscape.
Our judge said:
‘I don’t typically reach for nature poetry, but the way East Anglia’s poets write about its landscape, its natural and urban spaces, has some special kind of magic. This was such a deeply special reading experience. I was at all turns surprised, delighted and impressed to find poems ranging across time periods, across places, written by poets I’ve seen perform right here in Norfolk and by poets writing centuries ago. UEA Lecturers, Norwich fixture poets, time-honoured classics—every time I turned a page was a new treat.’
For fans of genre-bending poetry…
The Human Portion by Nicola Warwick (V. Press Poetry)
This collection of poems links our understanding of ourselves and our physicalities with nature, landscape and local wildlife. Poet and writer Moniza Alvi said:
‘Nicola Warwick’s poems take place in entrancing, liminal territory in which the human sensibility encounters the natural world. Deep kinship, mystery and otherness are conveyed through acute observation and transformative imagination. The language is precise and often surprises. Take, for instance ‘the sky, red as a swallow’s throat’ (‘Late high summer’), or ‘roots easing through earth / were a voice making itself unheard’ (‘And the trees (said)’). These poems reveal a special sensitivity and to read them is to feel our ‘Human Portion’ enlarged. Highly recommended.’
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