When knowledge is ours at the tap of a key, what is it we’re accumulating, and is it at the expense of another, more intuitive, kind of knowing?
The word ‘fool’ derives from the Latin follis, one of whose meanings is ‘empty-headed person’. Such mindlessness is not quite imaginable, but perhaps it is possible that by unknowing a thing we can start to see it differently. There’s a lot the fool doesn’t know – otherwise they wouldn’t be a fool – but can anyone be trusted to know anything?
A low-level hum of discordance runs through these poems: between inner and outer worlds, between the sceptical and the wondering mind. Ideas of belief and truth play out in various ways, often through lone figures, fools maybe, thinking aloud, continually distracted by the necessary performance of being.
Fool is Greta Stoddart’s fourth collection. Her third collection Alive Alive O was published by Bloodaxe in 2015. In 2023, Greta Stoddart won a Cholmondeley Award, a prize which recognises a poet's body of work.
'Greta Stoddart’s poems combine exceptional poise and presence with impressive reach. Capturing the flow of life they are distinguished by their depth of thought, alertness and sense of the paradoxical. Appearing to travel lightly, her poetry penetrates the mysteries of being and the complexities of the emotions. An outstanding maker of poems, Stoddart is also an electrifying performer. In 2017 she brought together her two paths of theatre and poetry in a radio drama Who’s there?, a profound and deeply humane work inspired by visits to a care home for those with advanced dementia. A recent collection Fool (2022) further demonstrates Greta Stoddart's ability to stretch what poetry can achieve. It confirms her as one of our most accomplished and ambitious poets.' - Moniza Alvi, Judge for the 2023 Cholmondeley Awards
'Stoddart ranges dazzlingly across the nature of time, reality, happiness and self in what feels like an understandably feverish, obsessive anxiety... Among current major UK poets, Stoddart’s poetic voice is perhaps as hard to categorise as anyone’s, except in its excellence. Even more than its wondrous three precursors, Fool will demand re-readings to absorb its full richness.’ – Matthew Paul, The Friday Poem
‘What is knowable, and how things are known, are themes of the collection. The Fool, a figure whose consciousness it often explores, may see more clearly through a gaze uncluttered by received ideas.’ – Carol Rumens, The Guardian, Poem of the Week
‘Greta Stoddart’s fourth collection Fool looks at ways in which, left to ourselves, we look for truth and meaning, how we inhabit various states of being and how it is we can know so much and so little at the same time.’ – Carol Rumens, The Poetry Review, introducing her interview with Greta Stoddart
'Reading and re-reading the spare, prosaic poems in this absorbing collection has been something of a quiet revelation.' - Jill Sharp, The High Window, on Fool
'For all its philosophy and wry commentary on the human condition this is a humane and wise book, always open to the questioning and exploration it advocates.' - Pauline Rowe, Orbis, on Fool
'In Fool, Greta Stoddart explores profound ideas of presence and absence, substance and void, but in an unassuming, conversational tone. Her poems are easy to underestimate, just like her chosen persona of the Fool, whose empty-headedness is not stupidity but a different way of responding to sights and sounds, people and objects...' - Dorothy Yamamoto, ARTEMISpoetry
Greta Stoddart: Alive Alive O
Greta Stoddart reads and introduces seven poems from Alive Aliveo O: ‘The Curtain’, ‘Lifeguard’, ‘Lamb’, ‘And here you are’, ‘Deep Sea Diver’, and ‘Turning Earth’.. Jesse Adlam filmed her at her home in Devon in June 2023 reading selections of poems from her two Bloodaxe collections, Alive Alive O and Fool. Both films include music by Frank Adlam.
Greta Stoddart: Fool
Greta Stoddart reads and introduces seven poems from Fool: ‘Yesterday I planted a tree’, ‘Adult Education’, ‘Perfect Field’, ‘Consider the mornings’, ‘Walking into church’, ‘Spell’, and ‘My life came up to me and said’. Jesse Adlam filmed her at her home in Devon in June 2023 reading selections of poems from her two Bloodaxe collections, Alive Alive O and Fool. Both films include music by Frank Adlam.
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