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Hannah Sullivan & Nick Laird

Monday 23rd September

Topping & Company Booksellers of Bath, York Street, Bath, Somerset BA1 1NG
Doors Open
Start Time

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 memorialising strain in the forensic accumulation of detail, but there is also celebration, a keen sense of holding on to and cherishing what we can.

'Rare, sympathetic, exceptionally readable.' Kate Kellaway, Observer Poetry Book of the Month

Nick Laird's powerful new collection reflects on the strange and chaotic times we live in. Reeling in the face of collapsing systems and the banalities and distortions of modern life, the poet confronts age-old anxieties, questions of aloneness, friendship, illness and death, the push and pull of daily existence.

Laird is a poet capable of heading off in any and every direction, where layers of association transport us from a harbour in County Cork to the library steps in New York's Washington Square, from a face-off between Freud and Michelangelo's Moses to one between the poet and a squirrel in a Kilburn garden. And at the heart of the collection lies the title sequence 'Up Late', a profound meditation on a father's dying, and winner of the 2022 Forward Prize for Best Single Poem.

There is conflation and conflagration, rage and fire, neither of which are seen as necessarily destructive. But there is great tenderness, too, a fondness for what grows between the cracks, especially those glimpses into the unadulterated world of childhood, where everything is still at stake and infinite as 'the darkness under the cattle grid'.