Spiritlands invites you into a territory that is at once individual and plural. On the one hand, this is poetry about a personal geography, an eclectic landscape, space in which to be oneself; on the other, these are poems all about hope, life and nature, about belonging to the whole world and asserting one’s right to a place and voice in it.
‘Spiritlands gives us a vivid account of the poet’s grandfather’s injuries in the First World War. Despite shrapnel in his left side he manages to get up and walk to safety. The poem now cuts to London during the Blitz where a small girl – the poet’s mother – slips away from parents and walks off into a bombed city. Wondrously, these two figures find each other in the poet’s imagination. The soldier picks up the small girl and “dances, dances, dances”. There is solace here but these transgenerational memories remind us of the dangers we are now facing in our own fractious, nationalistic, ecologically challenged century. Sometimes Sarah Wardle sings quietly, putting herself gracefully at the centre of her poems. Sometimes her songs soar above the roofs of London reaching out with an open heart for that broken, breaking larger world. Spiritlands is a glorious, generous, impressively humane work.’ – Julian Stannard
‘Some lovely and thought-provoking moments: this engagingly varied and accessible collection is witty and serious, delicately ordered and artfully casual.’ – Professor Norman Vance
‘Sarah Wardle writes with great humanity and makes A Knowable World of the indignity, frustrations and fear of acute episodes of mental illness. That’s how she manages to get her readers to empathise with all those in the community, both in and out of hospital, who live with the stigma of madness’ – Rabbi Baroness Julia Neuberger.
'Sarah Wardle's previous collection, Score!, took readers on an exuberant tour of Tottenham Hotspur FC, where she spent time as writer-in-residence. The change of tenor in A Knowable World, which charts the reel and plunge of the year she spent in a psychiatric facility receiving treatment for bipolar disorder, could hardly be more pronounced. These are, necessarily, poems of deep introspection, in which manic episodes, escape attempts and the baffling helplessness of incarceration are examined with agonised honesty... these are convincing poems, delivered with a tight formality that echoes the strictures under which Wardle found herself, while at the same time providing her with a means of control over a terrifyingly ungovernable situation' - Sarah Crown, Guardian.