A poem can remove the thorn from any lion's paw ñ but by the same token a poet may have to ask the lion to tend her wound. Penelope Shuttle's new collection, Sandgrain and Hourglass, charts a variety of transactions between poet-self and wound, between wound and beast. A major preoccupation is her continuing experience of loss, particularly the way time modulates and redefines grief.
Some aspects of human experience can be too painful or difficult to bear except through poetry. As Ted Hughes said, "poetry is a way of speaking to people we've lost when it is too late". In these poems ñ as in her previous book Redgrove's Wife ñ Shuttle continues such conversations with her husband Peter Redgrove, her father Jack Shuttle, and her close friend L.H.S., among others.
Her engagement with the world's manifold possibilities is also strongly present in Sandgrain and HourglassÖ A machine for grading kisses? Edward Thomas translated into Japanese? A stolen reindeer? Faust? Francis Bacon's mirror? Bedtime? The possibilities are endless.
"A moving and abundant book of more than 70 poems, Sandgrain and Hourglass follows on from Redgrove's Wife, a volume of defiant, celebratory elegies for her late husband, the poet Peter Redgrove, which featured some of Shuttle's best writing. Many of these new poems also focus on loss and the changing faces of grief, but find ñ as in the book's coda ñ that 'Happiness returns, after a long absence', even if 'she's a very small creature indeed'. Again and again, Shuttle relates complex emotions with a light earnestness, humour, and electric imagination."
Ben Wilkinson, The Guardian
"A path away from grief is both sought and rejected by Shuttle in this uncomfortably moving book, which tries to prise the memory of her husband from the untenable fantasy of his return."
Natalie Whittle, Financial Times
"Ö Shuttle's originality is everywhere evident, her response to loss both surprising and moving."
Stephen Knight, Independent on Sunday
"A brave collectionÖ Grief brings a new directness to her work, but this is also a joyful inventory of what remains."
Glyn Goodwin, Books Pick of the Year, Financial Times
"A wonderful book of poetry of love and loss by Penelope Shuttle about her late husband, poet Peter Redgrove. It spoke to me very strongly, having lost my own husband not so long ago."
Maureen Lipman, Daily Express
"Her poems of mourning... are among the best she has written."
Elaine Feinstein, The Times
"Her language is worked into something as fluid, slippery and refreshing as a spring. She writes with a buoyant, graceful confidence and she is a unique voice in contemporary British poetry."
Poetry Book Society Bulletin