Towards the end of his life the German poet Rainer Maria Rilke (1875-1926) wrote nearly four hundred poems in French - notably the two collections published as Les Fenêtres (The Windows) and Les Roses. The emergence of a French Rilke provides the starting point rather than the terminus for Jo Shapcott's new collection, Tender Taxes, which re-imagines Rilke's brief and fugitive lyrics as English poems. The occasion is Rilke, but these are more than versions: Shapcott's poems address this, arguing with the originals, crossing and re-crossing the frontier between translation and origination. Rilke and Shapcott are brought together in the shared incognito of a foreign language, 'speaking English through a French mouth'.
'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.