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Seasonal Disturbances by Karen McCarthy Woolf PBS Recommendation

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A 2017 Poetry Book Society Recommendation.

Set against a backdrop of ecological, political and emotional turbulence, Seasonal Disturbances is a charged yet meditative exploration of the relationship between nature, the city and the self in the 21st century. An interrupted zuihitsu written on board a Dutch barge on the Thames explores the elemental properties of water, repositioning the river as sacred space in a rapidly gentrifying London. A sinister CEO, presides, demigod-like, over a dystopian hinterland, where private detectives are hired to investigate crimes against hollyhocks; Halcyon is discovered as a dead kingfisher, washed up on an Italian beach and Odysseus is the archetypal migrant reimagined as a late night mini-cab driver.

Lyrical, and at the same time technically inventive, the book includes new forms such as the golden shovel and gram of &s as well as prose/poetry hybrids, found sonnets and landays. As the daughter of a Jamaican émigré, McCarthy Woolf also employs a variety of linguistic disruptions and reversals that critique the rhetoric, as in ‘Tatler’s People Who Really Matter’, which ‘lifts the breathlessly worshipful language of a real-life society power list and applies it to immigrants…to offer a witty and nuanced take on a complex subject.’ (Bidisha, BBC Arts). Political as they may be, these poems are not journalistic reportage but instead aim to inspire what the author describes as an ‘activism of the heart as well as the mind, where we connect to and express forces of love and renewal’.

Karen McCarthy Woolf was born in London to an English mother and a Jamaican father. She is the recipient of the Kate Betts Memorial Prize and an Arts and Humanities Research Council scholarship from Royal Holloway, where she is a PhD candidate. She is the editor of three literary anthologies, most recently Ten: The New Wave (Bloodaxe, 2014). Her poetry has been published in Poetry Review and Modern Poetry in Translation among others.

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