Shortlisted for 2003 Forward Prize for Best First Collection
Sarah Wardle's poetry in her first collection ranges from playful wit to gentle lyrics, exploring a personal geography from country to city. Every poem covers different territory, but in each the voice is distinctly hers: 'sparky and feisty' (Sheenagh Pugh), with 'a hint of darkness and wicked wit' (Roddy Lumsden). She can be mischievously inventive - imagining a Parliament of poets, or a people's revolution at the Palace - as well as powerfully reflective (the horror of a Sussex car bomb). And she confronts the suffering, treatment and prejudice of schizophrenia in poems such as 'Psyche', 'Digitalis', 'Metamorphosis' and 'Flight', in which we watch her, like a released blackbird, 'spread her wings and soar'.
'In this propitious debut Sarah Wardle demonstrates an eye for the arresting metaphor, an ear for the memorable phrase. Vigilant, prudent, and surprising, she can open philosophical puzzles or illuminate the commonplace and local, and write with accuracy and grace' – Michael Donaghy.
'In this immensely varied collection, Sarah Wardle manages the difficult task of using rhyme without letting it turn comical, wilful or self-conscious. In her work it is always the poem which impresses, never the poet. Time and again, a miracle of unforced musicality is allowed to fall gracefully to the page, seemingly without effort. To be able to make rhyme disappear into thin air is a great gift to a poet, but a greater one for the reader. Fields Away is a highly auspicious beginning' – Hugo Williams.
‘Wardle writes with a jauntiness and a grasp of the need to be clear; and courage, the sort that took on and put behind her the dark things and the different, writer’s courage, which dares to be understood and judged’ – Edward Pearce, Tribune.
‘She writes with admirable clarity and power of her experience of mental illness and some of her poems of childhood memories…are delightful. Her range is wide, encompassing travel, the urban and the pastoral as well as poignant poems of unfulfilled love’ – Vernon Scannell, Sunday Telegraph.