Poetry Book Society Choice
Hannah Lowe taught for a decade in an inner-city London sixth form. At the heart of this book of compassionate and energetic sonnets are ‘The Kids’, her students, the teenagers she nurtured. But the poems go further, meeting her own child self as she comes of age in the riotous 80s and 90s, later bearing witness to her small son learning to negotiate contemporary London.
Across these deeply felt poems, Lowe interrogates the acts of teaching and learning with empathy and humour. Social class, gender and race – and their fundamental intersection with education – are investigated with an ever critical and introspective eye. The sonnet is re-energised, becoming a classroom, a memory box and even a mind itself as ‘The Kids’ learn and negotiate their own unknown futures. These boisterous and musical poems explore and explode the universal experience of what it is to be taught, and to teach, ultimately reaching out and speaking to the child in all of us.
The poems in the first section of the book are informed by Hannah Lowe’s experiences as a teacher in the 2000s, but the scenarios are largely fictitious, as are the names of the students.
‘Hannah Lowe’s previous two collections, Chick and Chan, focused on her relationship with her Jamaican-Chinese father, alongside coming-of-age recollections. The Kids marks a departure: an introspective book of modern sonnets, it offers a glimpse into her experiences of teaching in an inner-city London sixth form. The collection includes homages to her own teachers, and concludes with a sequence lovingly written for her young son… This is a playful yet moving collection that will make the reader frown and laugh, sometimes both at once.’ – Mary Jean Chan, The Guardian, best recent poetry
'Always, we are in the hands of Lowe's singular, effortless voice, and reminded that all good education should be an education in class, in the legacies and histories of empire and in the self.' – Andrew McMillan, Poetry Book Society Bulletin
‘The poems in The Kids ﬁzz and chat with all the vitality and longing of the classes they conjure. Funny, moving, sometimes painful and always questioning, they capture teachers and their students learning life from each other in profound and unexpected ways. A joy to read.’ – Liz Berry
‘These sequences of stories are a refreshing update to The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie and To Sir with Love. Each of Lowe’s sonnets is a blackboard chalked with the tales of earnest teachers, of cheeky and lovable students, of being mentored to become a poet and of motherhood and learning to instruct again. Lowe makes the sonnet exciting for our age through its urgent, its compassionate, its wonderfully humorous address of the personal and the social.’ – Daljit Nagra
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