Winner of the UK's prestigious T.S. Eliot Prize, this debut collection offers meditations on young adulthood in New York, pregnancy, childbirth, death, and the vicissitudes of time as experienced at the beginning of the 21st century.
It’s great cocktail-bar (and dive-bar) verse ... pellucid and startlingly intelligent poetry ... Sullivan catches the 'slam-hold of horns' in taxicabs and how, when you are young in New York, you can pile into a cab with too many others ... You follow this writer where she wishes to take you. She is a poet of steel shavings, of semidetached feeling, of unexpected links and impieties and unpropitious implications. She’s writing criticism of daily life—criticism of the state of her own soul.
Sullivan’s voice has a suppleness that canters within the formal constraints she imposes on it ... she can be mischievous in her rhyming ... At times it feels like it’s overreaching, taking in philosophical discussions of nothingness and Shelley’s ars poetica; but...it is always pulled back by Sullivan’s astonishing capacity for the seen, the telling analogy, or visual set-piece ... Sullivan’s choice of register is one of her main assets ... chatty and offhanded, while evoking both spring’s excess and a certain insubstantiality. She’s an exquisite image-maker and analogist ... Sullivan never forgets to bring her celestial concerns down to the human scale.
Her alluring debut collection...travels light, illuminated yet never shackled by scholarship, and investigates the way life does—and does not—revise itself ... She writes freshly about everything, including sameness. She is a sensual conjurer of atmospheres—writing almost as a poet-restaurateur ... There is intimacy in this collection—sex, giving birth, death. Could one come any closer to a writer than through these subjects? Yet much remains mysterious ... patternless beauty is what compels in her own writing although the form is anything but failed. There is pure pleasure in her rhyming couplets. Her facility is so great (she is a modern Browning as a rhymer) that she is as at home with the streetwise as with the intellectually sophisticated and can, with almost absent-minded panache, bring off unexpected pleasures ... a gorgeous wit alternates with melancholy ... whatever the cocktail, it is worth ordering if Hannah Sullivan has mixed it.