Human Chain by Seamus Heaney is one of 6 poetry collections to be shortlisted for the 19th Forward Prize for Poetry, the winner of which will be announced on 6th October. It was also picked by PBS Selectors as the Choice collection for Autumn, thereby landing a place on the shortlist for the 2010 T S Eliot Prize alongside the three other 2010 PBS Choices. Kate Kellaway writing in the Observer on 22nd August finds much to admire in this collection which “muses on heredity and absent friends with restraint and rich imagery”. She describes Heaney’s human chain as “tolerant, durable, compassionate and every link is reinforced by literature”. Colm Tóibín’s review in the Guardian on 21st August hails Heaney’s new collection as “his best single volume for many years, and one that contains some of the best poems he has written”. He writes, “Human Chain is a book of shades and memories, of things whispered, of journeys into the underworld, of elegies and translations, of echoes and silences”. Charlotte Runcie writing in the Scotsman on 22nd August refers to Heaney as the “soil laureate” who is “still digging” with “the familiar style and inferences … on almost every page”. Whilst finding much that is familiar in the collection, Runcie identifies difference in “the occasional shift in focus towards simpler, more intimate observations of personal experiences”. Geordie Greig in the Evening Standard on 26th August also finds much of the Heaney style his fans know and love in Human Chain – “In this new volume, as in all his books, the signature mark is the natural world stirring his imagination.” He describes Heaney’s poetry as “confident, enriching, memorable and original … rooted in an unpretentious, often humble, view of life”.
Another collection shortlisted for the Forward Prize for Poetry this year is Jo Shapcott’s Of Mutability. Chosen by PBS Selectors as one of Autumn’s ‘Recommended’ titles, this is her first book in almost a decade. Writing in the Guardian on 17th July, Frances Leviston welcomes Shapcott’s exploration of “this theme of perpetual change” written, she finds, “in a voice as mutable as the phenomena it describes”. Whilst some of the poems deal with manmade instability, Leviston writes that “Shapcott’s poems temper their more urgent observations with the knowledge that both constancy and change are, so to speak, constructs of the human imagination, and “mutability” itself only a word.” Kate Kellaway writing in the Observer on 1st August describes Shapcott’s book as “a protean collection” with poems which “keep shifting ground, subtly transforming themselves ... Shapcott is interested in where the body begins and ends, the extent to which we overspill boundaries and become more than figures in a landscape”. Stephen Knight in the Independent describes the collection as dealing with “the insidiousness of illness and looming mortality, without the loss of a characteristic playfulness” and concludes with the assertion that Of Mutability is “an original, affecting book; her finest to date”.