Was It for This: Poems (Hardcover)

Was It for This: Poems By Hannah Sullivan Cover Image
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A hybrid new collection from the author of Three Poems—about London, terror, new motherhood, the Grenfell Tower fire, and how we live now.

Hannah Sullivan’s first collection, Three Poems, won the T. S. Eliot Prize and the inaugural John Pollard International Poetry Prize. Was It for This continues that book’s project, offering a trenchant exploration of the ways in which we attempt to map our lives in space and time.

But there is also the wider, collective experience to contend with, the upheaval of historic event and present disaster. “Tenants,” the first poem, is an elegy for Grenfell, written from the uneasy perspective of a new mother living a few streets away. Elsewhere, from the terraces and precincts of seventies and eighties London to the late-at-night decks of American suburbs, intimately inhabited geographies provide reference points and sites for revisiting.

Nothing is too small or unlovely to be transfixed by the poet’s attention, from the thin concrete pillars of a flyover to an elderly peacock’s broken train. There is a memorializing strain in the forensic accumulation of detail, but there is also celebration, a keen sense of holding on to and cherishing what we can.

About the Author

Hannah Sullivan lives in London and teaches English at Oxford. She studied Classics at Cambridge, and then lived in the United States for a decade. Three Poems is her debut collection. It was awarded the 2018 T. S. Eliot Prize and the John Pollard Foundation International Poetry Prize.

Praise For…

“[Sullivan] artfully explores space, time, and loss, planting us concretely in settings from her childhood and adulthood while exploring the abstracts of aging. She attempts to define what makes time, time, eventually yielding to its nothingness, its inherent ungraspable qualities . . . And yet in writing and giving her memories, Sullivan establishes a boundless piece of work that reminds us of stillness.”
—Meredith Boe, Chicago Review of Books

“Rare, sympathetic, exceptionally readable . . . Sullivan moves instinctively between forms as if stepping from one room into another, which is fitting because her subject is, in part, places she has called home . . . Sullivan’s wonderful, satisfyingly condensed writing counters precariousness and sees off futility.”
—Kate Kellaway, The Observer

“Transcendent . . . structure, plot, themes, tone, and diction all combine to consecrate the ordinary alongside the exceptional.”
—Leigh Rastivo, The Arts Fuse

“Tightly written, rich in humanity and humour.”
—Tristram Fane Saunders, The Telegraph

Product Details
ISBN: 9780374607982
ISBN-10: 0374607982
Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux
Publication Date: January 24th, 2023
Pages: 128
Language: English