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Of Mutability Paperback – 6 Jan 2011

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Product details

  • Paperback: 64 pages
  • Publisher: Faber & Faber; Main edition (6 Jan. 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0571254713
  • ISBN-13: 978-0571254712
  • Product Dimensions: 13.1 x 0.6 x 19.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (15 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 167,197 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

'Jo Shapcott is doing no less than rewriting the English poetic canon - challenging sources, verse structure, and the primacy of the patriarchal voice.', John Kinsella, Poetry Review

'Shapcott is gifted and original, and it is in work such as hers that the future health of poetry needs to be sought.' Sean O'Brien, Sunday Times

'The excellent title poem ['Of Mutability'], a deceptively casual sonnet, acts as something of a tissue sample for most of the book's concerns, from the mutations of cells to the disruption of the seasons, in a voice as mutable as the phenomena it describes.' Frances Leviston, Guardian

Jo Shapcott's cheekily titled, Her Book: Poems 1988 - 1998 (2000), consists of a selection of poetry from her three earlier collections: Electroplating the Baby (1988), which won the Commonwealth Poetry Prize for Best First Collection, Phrase Book (1992), and My Life Asleep (1999), which won the Forward Poetry Prize (Best Collection). Together with Matthew Sweeney she edited Emergency Kit: Poems for Strange Times (1996). Tender Taxes, her collection of conversations with Rainer Maria Rilke's poems in French, was published in 2002. Jo Shapcott has worked with a number of musicians on collaborative projects. She has also collaborated on poetry projects with scientists and medics, and is the editor of Discourses (2002), a collection of new poems by leading poets in response to the work of contemporary scientists. She is President of the Poetry Society. Her most recent book of poems Of Mutability (2010), was shortlisted for the Forward Prize.

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Review

'Full of wisdom and joy, a book for a lifetime.' --Carol Ann Duffy

'A remarkable achievement … precise, ingenious and often moving … There is a disarming yet affirmative exuberance about her poems, whatever the subject and wherever she is.' --Alan Brownjohn, Sunday Times

'Shapcott's is a voice that reaches out and grabs. In all her work, she transforms the extraordinary into the immediately plausible ... Whatever her province, her concern remains for the chaotically unaccountable in humanity.' --Mark Wormald, Times Literary Supplement

'[Shapcott] displays a talent both intimate and joyful, humorous and tender ... what comes through most powerfully, though, is her warmth and humanity.' --Daily Telegraph, Editor's Choice

'Shapcott's is a voice that reaches out and grabs. In all her work, she transforms the extraordinary into the immediately plausible ... Whatever her province, her concern remains for the chaotically unaccountable in humanity.' --Mark Wormald, Times Literary Supplement

'Wise, mind-opening collection ... [it] deserves to be as widely read as any bestselling self-help book.' -- Sunday Telegraph

'A deserved winner of the Costa Book Award.' --Sunday Herald

'One of the most rewarding collections from an English poet in recent years. Remarkable for its linguistic wealth ... it is a defiant achievement ... throughout this warm-hearted, at times sensual collection she offers that rare gift to the reader: new ways of seeing.' --Irish Times --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.

Book Description

Of Mutability by Jo Shapcott is a stunning new collection from the award-winning poet.

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Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

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As a working poet ['Avebury: Rime & Time'/2011 and 'Earth, Air, Fire and Water'/2015], I buy some and read lots of others' poetry. 'Of Mutability' is a great piece of mature work by Jo Shapcott.

Nearly 20 years ago, I bought her first 'Electroplating the Baby' ( which later went 'walkabout') and loved her work in re-presenting Rilke and Herbert. It was no hardship to buy 'Her Book Poems 1988-98', the anthology of her first three collections, some time ago; this I loved.

But for me, this 'Of Mutability' takes another good step onward. In that yawning interim, Shapcott has undergone treatment for cancer, with all the thinking and reflection such a journey creates then and ongoing. That is reflected in the maturity and variety of this lovely, slim volume. This leaves you hoping for more from Shapcott's mind, heart and pen - please.

There can be little wonder that this was Costa's 2010 Book of the Year. Buy it, bathe in its words and enjoy it - you'll soon by another as a gift for a friend.
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12 of 16 people found the following review helpful By Tarkus on 14 April 2011
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A fine collection of good poems that circle central themes of mortality and the preciousness of life. Shapcott's recent experience of cancer is clearly present, but not in an obtrusive or excluding way - they are relevant to all of us (well, all of us who are mortal, anyway). If I have a criticism, it would be that at times, the 'professional poet' is a little too evident; one or two of the poems read as if she has found a beautiful image or line and then worked a poem around it - rather than always working from the necessity of driven emotion.
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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful By What Cathy Read on 25 July 2012
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Ten years ago I had to submit a poetry portfolio for an MA in Creative Writing and cite my influences. When my tutor, Professor Newman, read my list she said I wasn't stretching myself enough, which wasn't telling me anything I didn't already know. You see, I'm more of a prose than a poetry kind of a girl and always have been. However this poetry collection made it to the top of my must read list by virtue of it winning the 2010 Costa Book of the Year Award.

So what makes it a prizewinner? The Costa judges said "these strong poems are rooted in the poet's experience of breast cancer but are all about life, hope and play. Fizzing with variety, they are a paean to creativity and make the reader feel that what matters to us all is imagination, humanity and a smile."

Given that comment, I was expecting the poems to tell the story of the poet's diagnosis, treatment, and cure. This is not the case. In fact the 'C' word is never mentioned and any references to her illness are oblique. So in the opening poem, Of Mutability, we are told "Too many of the best cells in my body/ are itching, feeling jagged, turning raw...and your blood tests/ turn the doctor's expression grave,' while in the penultimate, Procedure, a cup of tea, "takes me back to the yellow time/ of trouble with blood tests, and cellular/ madness..."

The collection is certainly varied, though. There are poems that make me smile, like Somewhat Unravelled, about her aunt's dementia and Tea Death, about someone drowning in a cup of Earl Grey. There are poems that challenge me to connect directly with the natural world, such as Night Flight to Muncaster "Reader, you're an owl...
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By Bertha Barlow on 20 April 2015
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This is an excellent collection by a poet at the top of her game. Her use of fluid visual imagery
and intriguing subject matter make the poems unique. She uses her own health crisis
and works of art and illuminates them with words. This adds to my conviction that works of art
and poems are first cousins.
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A collection written following a diagnosis of breast cancer, consider the experience of illness for those who are ill and those who are close to the person ill. Using nature and the landscape to describe experiences and a skill with language that will give many hours of pleasure reading and pondering...
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17 of 24 people found the following review helpful By clarissa on 11 Feb. 2011
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Bought this book after the author appeared on BBC breakfast show. I am usually not too impressed by modern poetry, this book however was a pleasant surprise and I would recommend it to anyone. I was very moved from the first reading onwards, I have to admit, though, that I don't understand some of the later poems in the book, some seem pretentious for the sake of being so which I don't like - but most of the poems grabbed me straightaway and I keep coming back to them.
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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful By marc on 6 Jun. 2011
Format: Paperback
When i saw Jo at the national poetry day, the poems in her book came to life and for me it was one of the best readings i had heard because she did not have to force the poems or the words they just trickled gently from her personal experiences an extension and magnification of the poems. The simplicity of the poems give them life
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1 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Daniel Park on 11 July 2011
Format: Paperback
I'd like to qualify this review by saying I'm not a natural poetry reader. Some of these poems "spoke" to me, and some did not. "Uncertainty" used a "bad" dog as a metaphor, rolling in other smells so it couldn't be discovered, and poorly tracking, seemingly blind to risk. I think this is an interesting way of viewing what uncertainty means, and not just in the context of the author's illness, which understandably colours her work. It also reminded me of Ted Hughes' poem, "The thought fox" which I remember reading at school.

Interestingly the poem opposite "Uncertainty" in the book, entitled "Composition" has the same subject matter as "The thought fox", i.e. how a poem gets created. In "Composition" the author tries her best to avoid writing, and is distracted by many commonplace things, and yet the poem becomes a representation of all these everyday things. That brought a smile to my face.
"Scorpion" was another of my favourites. Here the author dashes off her reasons for killing a scorpion in a headlong rush, reproducing her sense of fear in an intense breathless paragraph.

A previous reviewer criticised the author for occasionally being too much of a "professional poet". I must confess I'm not quite sure what that means, but I have to agree that some of her works seemed to go over my head, as if she was talking to people who know more than I do about the art of poetry, so perhaps that's what the reviewer meant.

However, all I all I found Shapcott's poetry to be very good stuff and I'd be happy to read more of her work in the future.
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