Shortlisted for the 2015 T.S. Eliot Prize
Poetry Book Society Choice
Tracey Herd’s long awaited new collection was inspired by the late actress Elizabeth Hartman’s lifelong struggle with mental illness and by her own experience of living with clinical depression. The book examines the eternal bonds of love and friendship and the joys, grief and losses which imbue the human experience. These deeply personal yet vibrant poems also use the mediums of film, music and memory to create a collection which reverberates with pain and yet still finds small moments of happiness to savour.
Not in This World is Tracey Herd’s third collection from Bloodaxe. Her debut, No Hiding Place (1996) was shortlisted for the Forward Prize for Best First Collection, and her second collection, Dead Redhead (2001), was a Poetry Book Society Recommendation.
'The poems in Tracey Herd's Not in this World are harrowing, as if sculpted with an ice-pick in the glaciers of depression. Yet the ice is fiery, survival is at stake in an unsentimental world, where the diction is as rigorous as the gaze. There are Hollywood starlets, Ruffian the racehorse, and self-portraits where Herd confronts her own demons. Heart-breaking lines… conjure a world pared to the bone. It is rare to come across lines as stripped and taut as hers.’ – Pascale Petit, chair of the 2015 T.S. Eliot Prize judges
‘What’s interesting about Herd’s poems is her use of everyday speech in settings that are themselves highly wrought… she offers a wintry bareness that offsets the bookish and filmic cast of her imagination, often with a sense of finality…’ – Sean O’Brien, Guardian on Not in This World
‘…Tracey Herd’s Not in This World explores mental health and the relationship between joy and grief in a melancholy and precise collection drawing on the actress Elizabeth Hartman’s life and Herd’s own experiences of depression.’ – Charlotte Runcie, Daily Telegraph
‘Tracey Herd's Not in this World would be a worthy winner of the TS Eliot Prize, for which it is shortlisted. "Happy Birthday" must contain this year's saddest lines. The carefully modulated rage, grief and self-recriminations for an aborted foetus bears comparison with Sylvia Plath at her most coolly savage… But there is more to Herd than closely observed misery. She writes with sensitivity about classic movie stars… It is remarkable how much comedy, however black, Herd finds in the gloom.’ – James Kidd, The Independent
‘There’s a real obsession with story in this highly appealing and enjoyable collection, recently shortlisted for the prestigious TS Eliot prize. Herd ruminates over films and the stories they tell, as well as the ones they don’t, the lives of the actors themselves. Mirrors, glass houses, the moon all feature in her romantic but disciplined approach.’ – Lesley McDowell, Sunday Herald (Four Good Reads)
‘It is a collection that explores the place of women in life, on screen, in fiction and Herd’s balance of the distant and the intimate make reading and re-reading her poems a joy.’ – Charlie Gracie, Northwords Now [on Not in this World]
‘Not in This World is further proof of Herd’s enormous talent, her ability to draw her readers into the hinterland of her fascinations and surprise, challenge and delight us with the blistering force of her perceptions. Dark they may be, but these are poems that are a joy to savour, beguiling enough to bear repeated readings, each one throwing up fresh ideas thanks to Herd’s keen wit and kaleidoscopic knowledge of popular culture.’ – Jacqueline Thompson, Glasgow Review of Books