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Of Mutability Paperback – 2 Jun 2011


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Product details

  • Paperback: 64 pages
  • Publisher: Faber & Faber (2 Jun 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0571277942
  • ISBN-13: 978-0571277940
  • Product Dimensions: 12.6 x 0.5 x 19.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (13 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 258,511 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.

Product Description

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

Book Description

A stunning new illustrated edition of Jo Shapcott's Costa award-winning collection Of Mutability

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Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
Born out of the poet’s own treatment for cancer, this brilliant collection of poems examines the many forms that change and mutation can take. By no means maudlin, even the poems with a direct connection to Shapcott’s illness explore with something like a sense of wonder the heightened sensibility to the world around that reminders of mortality can bring. This is a world (suddenly) of ‘eclipses, gold leaf, comets, angels’ (‘Of Mutability’) that, despite bodily preoccupations, is itself on the cusp of mutating into something else (‘Era’). Skin and hair, marking the borderlands between the body and what lies outside it (‘Deft’, ‘Hairless’); youth and senescence (‘Abishag’, ‘Somewhat Unravelled’); and the shifts of mood or focus that a scent (‘Procedure’) or the act of writing (‘Composition’) can bring about: all are celebrated. There’s a meditation on the human capacity for imagination that lets us ‘become’ an owl (‘Night Flight from Muncaster’) or think ourselves inside a tree (‘I Go Inside the Tree’), and a poem that captures something of the neither-solid-ground-nor-water experience of being in Venice (‘La Serenissima’). Though singling out favourites is hard, I’d say that ‘Uncertainty is Not a Good Dog’ perfectly captures the sense that not knowing what lies ahead is simultaneously worrying and an opportunity for new discoveries; while ‘St. Bride’s’ attests to the way that a building, too (in this case, the Fleet Street church badly damaged during the London blitz), can stand as witness to changed attitudes to war, filtered through news reports of Baghdad, blitzed during the Iraq war. A collection to savour, then, and a monument to the creativity and transformation that crisis can bring.
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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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11 of 15 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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17 of 24 people found the following review helpful By clarissa on 11 Feb 2011
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
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 What Cathy Read on 25 July 2012
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
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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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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