Costa Poetry Award
Judges: “In its range of voices, its artful and beautiful use of language and languages, this account of two devastating fires seemed to us all an important book – and a very moving one.”
Surge is exactly Geoffrey Hill’s idea of poetry: a sad and angry consolation, alert to the past. The voices of the dead have a nightmarish directness: “He takes my head and places it in a plastic bag,” one poem begins.
It’s a sober read, and I’ll confess to missing the playful fizz of Bernard’s thrilling pamphlet The Red and Yellow Nothing. But Surge is a mature work, with lyricism both poetic (windows “are cups of water filled with winter”) and pop (one poem takes the form of a dub reggae toast).
This affecting poetic exploration of the New Cross Fire of 1981 (dubbed “The New Cross Massacre”) is incantatory, lyrical and documentary. It makes a deep impact both on account of its own narrative and in the wake of Grenfell.