Somerset Maugham Award
Miriam Gamble’s poetry is cleverly self-conscious about the doubleness of language: as resistant, resisting medium, and as the lightly worn currency of the everyday. Remarkable for its imaginings of both the animal world and the human, her first full-length collection The Squirrels Are Dead encompasses an urgent sense of social engagement as well as a profound sense of mystery, in which language is journeyed through as an almost-familiar landscape.
Gamble is a mistress-manipulator of tradition – with sonnet, villanelle and sestina some of the forms on display – who forces new rhythms into tried and tested forms, yet is ever vigilant to the fact that poets do not replace, they update, and that tradition comes to fresh life in the retelling. The Squirrels Are Dead is a striking and assured debut from a distinctive new talent in Irish poetry.
'Among her positive qualities I would single out abundant vocabulary, ambitious syntax, humour (not all that common), a sense of rhythm, an ability to write memorable lines, and an original slant on the world. She looks like the real thing all right' – Michael Longley.
'Alert to the possibilities of alien consciousness and aware, simultaneously, of our human presumption, the poems...explore, dissect, muse on, re-imagine and punctuate "the disparities of life as we know it" with fleet intelligence and consummate skill' – Sinéad Morrissey