Queen's Gold Medal for Poetry 2016
Poetry Book Society Special Commendation
Denise Levertov described Gillian Allnutt’s poems as ‘at once hard and delicate, like wrought iron’. They are both serious and light in touch, deeply humane and spiritually profound, showing the spirit surviving amongst the tatters of Christianity in a modern wilderness.
How the Bicycle Shone includes selections from her books Spitting the Pips Out (1981), Beginning the Avocado (1987), Blackthorn (1994) and Nantucket and the Angel (1997), as well as the whole of Lintel (2001), Sojourner (2004) and a collection of new poems, Wolf Light (2007). She has since published two later collections, indwelling (2013) and wake (2018).
‘From her first collection published in the early 1980s, Gillian Allnutt’s work has always been in conversation with the natural world and the spiritual life. Her writing roams across centuries, very different histories and lives, and draws together, without excuse or explanation, moments which link across country, class, culture and time. The North is a constant touchstone in her work; canny and uncanny, its hills and coast, its ancient histories and its people. Her poems progress over the years to a kind of synthesis of word-play and meditation. In her work the space between what is offered and what is withheld is every bit as important as what is said. She has the power to comfort and to astonish in equal measure. In her outlook, her imagination, her concerns and her lyric voice she is unique.’ - Dame Carol Ann Duffy, Poet Laureate, on behalf of the Queen's Gold Medal for Poetry Award Committee
'... Allnutt writes from a strongly personal sense of history. Sometimes described as a "spiritual" poet, she belongs to the contemplative tradition, and she is scholarly and deft in handling religious subject-matter. But her poems love the world, too. They have a lapidary quality, and are brightly dotted with the names, places, small scenes and treasured objects of everyday life...How the Bicycle Shone is a remarkably cohesive volume, showing how faithful Allnutt has remained to her imaginative sources. The poems often interrelate, even across decades, and much of the collection is best read as an extended sequence.... to fully savour the craft of one of the most trustworthy poets currently writing, you need to read the book.' - Carol Rumens, Guardian Poem of the Week