A Knowable World follows Sarah Wardle’s detainment in a Central London psychiatric hospital for over a year for manic episodes of bipolar disorder. The poems chart the stresses of thirty-something city life through police arrests and hospitalisation under section orders to achieve a way out; then the threat and frustration involved in the fight for liberty and the patience needed to achieve recovery.
Through commanding and apt expression, Sarah Wardle conveys bleak experience. These cathartic poems are themselves testimony to her ability to overcome the sense of futility, helplessness and panic involved in bipolar disorder. Form and technique have provided a framework for her to re-establish a sense of order and concentration out of chaos. A Knowable World bravely enlightens our understanding of mental illness.
‘Sarah Wardle writes with great humanity and makes A Knowable World of the indignity, frustrations and fear of acute episodes of mental illness. That’s how she manages to get her readers to empathise with all those in the community, both in and out of hospital, who live with the stigma of madness’ – Rabbi Baroness Julia Neuberger.
'Sarah Wardle's previous collection, Score!, took readers on an exuberant tour of Tottenham Hotspur FC, where she spent time as writer-in-residence. The change of tenor in A Knowable World, which charts the reel and plunge of the year she spent in a psychiatric facility receiving treatment for bipolar disorder, could hardly be more pronounced. These are, necessarily, poems of deep introspection, in which manic episodes, escape attempts and the baffling helplessness of incarceration are examined with agonised honesty... these are convincing poems, delivered with a tight formality that echoes the strictures under which Wardle found herself, while at the same time providing her with a means of control over a terrifyingly ungovernable situation' - Sarah Crown, Guardian.