From the direct trajectory of their first collection, Straight Ahead, Clare Shaw’s second collection Head On turns an unflinching gaze into startling new territories. Structured by interweaving themes of political and personal conflict, the book begins and ends with the recurrent necessity of speaking out. And this is a book which speaks in equal measures, in precise and uncompromising language, about love and tenderness; violence and brutality.
Clare Shaw writes to speak to the world. But first and foremost these are poems which speak directly to the reader, through words which shock, engage, disturb and delight. This is a book which – in its content and its impact – sets out to establish and to challenge the limits of language. Exploring with unflinching focus and intent some of her darkest territory yet – but returning, as always, to the light – Clare Shaw offers us a furious but ultimately hopeful exploration of the world as she lives it.
‘The energy and vivacity of Clare Shaw’s writing, its colloquial power, frame of reference and sheer sound is enough to mark her out as one of the most talented young poets to appear in recent years. Hers is a natural gift that speaks as it sings. It confronts the world with knowledge, pity, melancholy, affection and a kind of sympathetic fury, as if the world were shards and fragments that could be gathered into the ear and sung from the heart. And the remarkable thing is that she does gather it and sing it, that she imbues it with the passion owing to it’ – George Szirtes
‘Hold your breath when you read Clare Shaw’s poems. Startling, searing, scorching, this is an emotional blast of a book’ – Jackie Kay