Shortlisted for the Seamus Heaney Centre for Poetry Prize
Poetry Book Society Recommendation
Heidi Williamson’s first collection is peopled with vibrant and disturbing shadows. The Northern Lights reach down beneath the London skyline, James Dean learns the craft of distance, Darwin staggers across a heaving ship, Coleridge slumbers on to another dream, and The Travelling Salesman turns a calculator on us.
Fuelled by a residency at the London Science Museum’s Dana Centre, Williamson’s fascination with science leads her to explore less usual territories for poetry, including mathematics, chemistry, and computer programming, as well as space travel, electricity, and evolution.
As she investigates the limits of personal and factual knowledge with ‘eyes wide open’, the driving force throughout is a desire to understand the ‘astonishing state of possibilities’ in the world around and inside us.
‘Heidi Williamson’s poems are about contact with the haunted world. She understands uncertainty and loss, as well as the trace loss leaves behind as memory, memory that acts like a Blitz incendiary waiting to ignite later in life. The sensuousness of language is asserted…through tender explorations of our haunted fabric’ – George Szirtes.
‘Williamson knows that poetry is a means of investigation, rigorous and disciplined; her poems often begin with a thought that a lesser poet would be content to end with. This approach is evident in the beautiful precision of her language, the way form itself becomes a means of discovery’ – Esther Morgan.
‘I am a great admirer of Heidi’s poetry and find her fascination with science very exciting. There isn’t enough high quality poetry that is empathetic to science around and the value of her approach extends well beyond poetry’ – Professor Anne Osbourn of The Osbourn Lab, John Innes Centre (international research centre for plant science and microbiology).
‘At their heart is human tenderness and a sense of human friability... as in scientific investigation, all is questioned and held to close scrutiny. The poems display an incisive mind, a powerful imagination and an equally impressive purchase on language... A very welcome debut indeed.' – Moniza Alvi & Paul Farley, PBS Bulletin, on Electric Shadow
Heidi Williamson on publishing her first collection
Heidi Williamson talks to Leila Telford at Writers' Centre Norwich.