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All Souls

On sale

5th October 2023

Price: £10.99

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Selected: Paperback / ISBN-13: 9781472158741

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A TLS, SPECTATOR AND TIME MAGAZINE BOOK OF THE YEAR 2023

FINALIST FOR THE NBCC AWARD FOR POETRY 2023

‘Celebrating the incredible moral clarity, beauty, fearlessness and power of the spirit of Saskia Hamilton – and of her poetry’ Jorie Graham

‘Full of delicate and muscular truths and graced with rare intelligence, this posthumous volume offers the gifts of a uniquely sensitive mind’ Publisher’s Weekly (starred review)

‘To read Saskia Hamilton’s opening poem in her forthcoming collection, All Souls, is to move through time in acts of seeing and of noting what is seen . . . For now, the day seems to say, Let the ordinary amaze, it’s the grace we hold . . . Hamilton rests her sights on what can be apprehended from a bed, sofa, chair, or window, and named in the quotidian. These small recognitions ensure a life’s weightiness, wariness, worthiness’ Claudia Rankine

Who becomes familiar with mortal
illness for very long. I was a stranger, &c.
Not everyone appreciates it, no
one finds being the third person
becoming, it’s never accurate,
and then one is headed for the past tense.

Futurity that was once a lark, a gamble,
a chance messenger, traffic and trade, under sail.

The boy touches your arm in his sleep
for ballast. It’s warm in the hold. Between
ship and sky, the bounds of sight
alone, sphere so bounded.

-from ‘All Souls’

In All Souls, Saskia Hamilton transforms compassion, fear, expectation, and memory into art of the highest order. Judgment is suspended as the poems and lyric fragments make an inventory of truths that carry us through night’s reckoning with mortal hope into daylight. But even daylight – with its escapements and unbreakable numbers, ‘restless, / irregular light and shadow, awakened’ – can’t appease the crisis of survival at the heart of this collection. Marked with a new openness and freedom – a new way of saying that is itself a study of what can and can’t be said-the poems give way to Hamilton’s mind, and her unerring descriptions of everyday life: ‘the asphalt velvety in the rain.’

The central suite of poems vibrates with a ghostly radioactive attentiveness, with care unbounded by time or space. Its impossible charge is to acknowledge and ease suffering with a gaze that both widens and narrows its aperture. Lightly told, told without sentimentality, the story is devastating. A mother prepares to take leave of a young son. Impossible departure. ‘A disturbance within the order of moments.’ One that can’t be stopped, though in these poems language does arrest and in some essential ways fix time.

Tenderness, courage, refusal, and acceptance infuse this work, illuminating what Elizabeth Hardwick called ‘the universal unsealed wound of existence.’

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Reviews

Jorie Graham
Saskia Hamilton is not a quiet poet, just an extremely subtle and fierce one. There is a quality of spiritual stubbornness and astonishing resilience that courses through even her briefest utterances
Daniel Swift, Spectator
For [Hamilton], history is made of tiny, intimate moments, and the poems remember the pleasures of museum visits, summer afternoons, conversations with friends... I loved this precise, brave book, and wanted it to keep going
Raymond McDaniel, Boston Review
Hamilton's poems are delicate only in the way a suspension bridge is: neither is marked by unnecessary ornament or fragility, and it would be a mistake to regard either as anything other than rigorously tough
Publisher's Weekly (starred review)
Full of delicate and muscular truths and graced with rare intelligence, this posthumous volume offers the gifts of a uniquely sensitive mind
Publisher's Weekly (starred review)
Full of delicate and muscular truths and graced with rare intelligence, this posthumous volume offers the gifts of a uniquely sensitive mind.
David Orr, New York Times Book Review
Hamilton writes short, smart, sometimes enigmatic poems that seem carved out of driftwood, or old bones
Fiona Sampson, Guardian
'This posthumously published fifth collection faces both the existential problem of our shared mortality and the poet's own rapidly approaching death with directness and steely grace... A writer of profound literary and emotional intelligence'
Dan Chiasson, New Yorker
Hamilton's poems are as passionate in their austerity, and as austere in their passion, as Hopper or Hardy
Shannon Carlin, TIME Magazine
'All Souls is a devastating reminder of one's own mortality, written by a writer who has gone too soon'