Shortlisted for the 2017 T. S. Eliot Prize
PBS Autumn Recommendation
The poems in James Sheard’s remarkable third book are about love and leaving, of how the rift of departure brings on a kind of haunting – of the people involved and the places where they lived – an emotional trace of departed lives and loves. This is what these poems are: the scars of separation, the spoors of desire. Sheard writes powerfully about loss, about how the vestiges of significance, of sensual heat, are retained by structures – in ghost towns, war-zones, deserted villages or resorts – but also by the human body and memory: ‘for love exists, and then is ruined, and then persists.’
These are poems about permanence and fragility, of being uncertain whether the house you live in is a shell, or if you have become a shell by living there – whether emptiness means loss and abandonment or a clean start and a new beginning. But these are also poems full of the ache of desire, the tart, lingering smell of sex: poems shaped by longing.
James Sheard is one of Britain’s most assured and precise lyric poets, and his third collection brings all his considerable strengths to poems as accurate and strange as thermal images.
For at his best, James Sheard can be effortlessly moving, and clever – but not for the sake of it.