Former Poetry Editor at The New Writer wins the 10th place on the Guardian first book award longlist.
Photograph: Lee Garland
Sarah Jackson’s debut collection Pelt is praised as ‘assured and mysterious’. A passionate reader response to Sarah Jackson’s “powerful and violent” debut poetry collection, Pelt has helped to bag the title the 10th place on the Guardian first book award longlist.
This is the second year the Guardian has opened the final slot on the longlist up to public nominations; last year, reader praise led to the discovery of Juan Pablo Villalobos’s novel Down the Rabbit Hole, which went on to make the shortlist. This year, 11 titles including Eowyn Ivey’s Russian fairy tale-inspired novel The Snow Child, and the European bestseller The Hundred-Year-Old Man Who Climbed Out of the Window and Disappeared by Jonas Jonasson, were enthusiastically backed by readers, but after considerable debate Jackson’s poetry collection, which journeys from infancy to adulthood, won the final spot.
Reviewer R042 said that Pelt “stunned me in a way that a great book should – this doesn’t have to be through great incident, or wit, but sometimes just the sheer power of the way in which something is expressed”. Jackson’s poetry is both “powerful and violent”, according to R042, while supporter Dylanwolf praised Pelt as “an assured and mysterious collection – a rewarding read, reminding one of the rich and affecting experience that is the glory of reading poetry”.
There is a “sense of longing and remembrance” in Jackson’s poems, according to Goodyorkshirelass, who quoted lines including, “My duck egg girl, my vanishing twin. Do you remember me?” and, “You picking me up like driftwood, your eyes so kind, I thought I’d die of it.”
With five poetry collections in the running for the final place, and six novels, Guardian books editor Claire Armitstead said the hunt this year had “provoked some ferocious debates between reviewers and authors”, and that “the standard of the discussions has been a delight – proving yet again what passionately discerning readers our reviewing community are”.
Armitstead said the process had “brought books to our attention that had slipped under the reviewing radar”. “We very much hope that Sarah Jackson’s Pelt will go on to be as successful as Down the Rabbit Hole was last year,” she added.
Jackson’s collection missed out on a place on the Forward prize shortlist for best first collection this year, but her editor Neil Astley at Bloodaxe Books said its place on the Guardian longlist “shows it is connecting with readers out there”.
“It’s a very sensual book,” he added. “It’s dreamlike, but distant at the same time. [And] it’s wonderful that it has become the 10th book on the Guardian list.”
The full longlist for the Guardian first book award will be announced at the end of August. Last year, oncologist Siddhartha Mukherjee’s “biography” of cancer, The Emperor of All Maladies, took the £10,000 prize, which has been won in the past by Zadie Smith, Petina Gappah and Alex Ross.
Alison Flood, The Guardian, 13 August 2012