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Jo Shapcott – Her Book 2 – Life

One of the things I love about Shapcott’s poetry is its passionate and joyful embrace of the world.

A poem reflecting on this in general terms is “Life”, which you can find here  http://ijcooper.hostoi.com/NewPoems/Shapcott_Life.htm

The speaker of the poem describes three lives, as bat, frog and iguana or hearing, touch and tongue. I want to comment a bit on the last of these.

When a poet writes about tongue and mouth we tend to think of them as organs of expression, but Shapcott’s poem presents the tongue as a means of discovery, a way of receiving the world:

My life as … Continue Reading

Jo Shapcott, Her Book – 1

Wow! I’ve just reread Jo Shapcott’s Her Book: Poems 1988 – 1998. What a generous, exciting collection it is.

I say “collection” but of course it’s really a selection from three earlier books. Although it seems to me that it’s in Phrase Book that she really takes off, Shapcott’s huge gifts and utter distinctiveness are already clear in Electroplating the Baby. Take this from “Lies” (which you can read as a whole at http://queen-ypolita.insanejournal.com/tag/poet:+jo+shapcott  if you don’t have Her Book or Electroplating the Baby):

In reality, sheep are brave, enlightened
and sassy. They are walking clouds
and like clouds have forgotten
how … Continue Reading

Jo Shapcott, Of Mutability

Of Mutability is a book about death and change. Some of its poems hauntingly evoke unease, fear and loss. What is astonishing is how often the same poems, looked at from another angle, twinkle with humour, playfulness and resilient vitality. “Procedure”, the penultimate piece, is one of the most poignantly life-affirming poems I know. Here, the guard of humour is dropped completely, but the final poem, “Piss Flower”, blends elements that are wonderfully funny with others that aren’t funny at all in an amazing fusion of rude wit with grace. This is an immediately accessible and enjoyable book. It’s also … Continue Reading