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Surge Reviews

Surge by Jay Bernard

Surge

Jay Bernard

Score pending

2 reviews

Imprint: Chatto & Windus
Publisher: Vintage Publishing
Publication date: 20 Jun 2019
ISBN: 9781784742614

*Winner of the Ted Hughes Award for New Work in Poetry 2018*Jay Bernard's extraordinary debut is a fearlessly original exploration of the black British archive: an enquiry into the New Cross Fire of 1981, a house fire at a birthday party in south London in which thirteen young black people were killed.

4 stars out of 5

"exactly Geoffrey Hill’s idea of poetry: a sad and angry consolation, alert to the past. "

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).

Reviews

4 stars out of 5

"makes a deep impact both on account of its own narrative and in the wake of Grenfell"

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.