The territory of Clare Shaw’s third collection isn’t one Clare chose, but one which chose Clare: the flooded valley and the ruined home. The 2015 floods in Britain left whole swathes of the country submerged, including Clare's home town. Flood offers an eye-witness account of those events, from rainfall to rescue, but ripples out from there. Intimately interwoven with the breakdown of a relationship, flooding serves as a powerful metaphor for wider experiences of loss, destruction and recovery.
Testifying equally to the forces that destroy us and save us, flood runs through the book in different forms – bereavement and trauma, the Savile scandal, life in an asylum. Yet ultimately, this is a story of one life as it is unravelled and rebuilt, written from the heart and from the North, in a language as dangerous and sustaining as water.
‘Aching truth spoke through Clare Shaw’s Flood (Bloodaxe), while Imtiaz Dharker’s beautifully illustrated Over the Moon (Bloodaxe) left a lasting impression...’ – Jane Burn, Morning Star (Best of 2019: Poetry)
‘There is a quiet, cool, authentic voice to the poems of Flood. A flood that destroyed Clare Shaw’s home town, mental illness, self-injury, the end of a relationship, are all experiences recounted with factual detachment… There is a sense that the poet’s most intimate surroundings have betrayed her, but the stillness and control with which Shaw writes reveal quiet layers of intensity drawn from unstable places.’ - Carla-Rosa Manfredino, Times Literary Supplement
'Caught directly in the deluge’s rising tide, Shaw is a witness who gives incantatory evidence of poetry’s power to define, rather than simply describe, the existential pain of being caught helpless in maelstroms both external and psychological.' - Steve Whitaker in The Yorkshire Times
‘I highly recommend Flood… Calling this collection a response to a town’s flooding does it scant justice; it is a howl against suffering. But outrage is not enough, crafting must come to the fore and through 46 poems Shaw demonstrates her command of subtle rhythm and intriguing internal rhyme. Sometimes deceptively simple in their initial appearance, on further reading all of these poems reveal a deep level of profundity, leaving a mark as indelible as the high-water line of a receding flood.’ - John Irving Clarke, Write Out Loud
‘Hold your breath when you read Clare Shaw’s poems. Startling, searing, scorching, this is an emotional blast of a book’ – Jackie Kay [on Straight Ahead]
Clare Shaw at Newcastle Poetry Festival 2023
In this reading at the 2023 Newcastle Poetry Festival, Clare begins with ‘My father was no ordinary man’ from their 2018 collection Flood. Clare then reads a selection of poems from Towards a General Theory of Love: ‘Monkey Writes a Poem About His Mother’, ‘Rhosymedre: Prelude on a Welsh Hymn’, ‘Monkey and I Discuss the Difﬁculty of Working Therapeutically with Non-verbal Traumatic Memories’, ‘Monkey Joins a Dating App’, ‘Monkey Reads William Blake’ and ’Child Protection Policy’. Clare ends the reading with ‘Who knows what it’s like’, from Flood.