Shortlisted for the Poetry category of the East Anglian Book Awards 2018
The Wound Register, or Casualty Book – which gives this book its title – is an official record of the casualty and sickness details for more than fifteen thousand soldiers of the Norfolk Regiment during the First World War. Written during the conflict’s centenary, the poems in Esther Morgan’s fourth collection apply the concept to her own family history in the aftermath of her great-grandfather’s death at the Somme. An unflinching sequence written to her grandmother explores the trauma of losing a father in combat, while other poems address the missing soldier directly as he hovers on the brink of living memory.
Morgan’s experience of coming late to motherhood brings the book into the present, giving her alertness to loss a fresh urgency as she traces the legacy of three generations. Written with the lyrical precision of her earlier work but with a new intimacy, The Wound Register grapples movingly with the question of whether it’s possible to live and love while doing no harm.
‘Grace, Esther Morgan's third collection, is an extraordinary, radiant book. Its poetry makes quietly insistent demands uppon the reader: "In the stillness, everything becomes itself."... The afterglow of Esther Morgan's luminous work is not certainty, but questions. Can imagination transform, or simply recognise, what is there? Do these poems come by grace of Muse or angel?’ – Alison Brackenbury, Poetry London
‘We speak of "the poet’s voice", a phrase which comes to mind when considering what’s special about Grace: the consistency and perfect pitch of the ‘voice’. Open any page, pick any poem, and the reader hears poetry that sings without use of a single poetic device of sound or form. That’s not easy to get right. It’s a book of rooms, interiors, sensed presences and absences, noted detail, the graceful and the slovenly - white plates on a kitchen table, a slipware bowl, the year-old jar of nails and flies. It’s a quiet book, full of grace, like a painting by Vermeer, and, like the work of Vermeer, each work of art inhabits the same house. This collection doesn’t strike a single false note.’ – Gillian Clarke, T.S. Eliot Prize judge’s comment on Grace
‘The visionary gleam is picked up and amplified by poem after poem in Esther Morgan's superb new collection... Morgan's passion for light is also a yearning for space and air, for an uncluttered and ethereal existence.’ – Jem Poster, Poetry Review
‘Some of these poems are pitch-perfect, combining feeling with sparse language and seeking out exact metaphors to augment their subtle arguments. "This Morning"... is particularly poignant... Along with a handful of the best poems in the book, it confirms Morgan as a talented invoker of the sometimes seismic minutiae of our everyday lives.' – Ben Wilkinson, Guardian
‘Esther Morgan has achieved a spare, resonant poetry which aches for, and often discovers, instances of transcendence and transfiguration. These are moments of grace in an ordinary world... Often Morgan's is a fruitful world where presences can be felt in absences, like sunlight in a dusty guest room, but it's also a world of grave uncertainty... These are quiet poems, yet the perceptions can be breathtaking in their beauty and accuracy... Grace allows for still spaces in our lives, for a sense of the sacred that might visit us even... Grace is full of grace in more than one sense – Esther Morgan's third collection is elegant and profound.’ – Moniza Alvi & Michael Symmons Roberts, PBS Bulletin
Esther Morgan reads nine poems
Esther Morgan's third collection Grace was shortlisted for the 2011 T.S. Eliot Prize. The main themes of her poetry are loss, loneliness and what remains unspoken. She describes her subject-matter as being 'family and ancestry, the domestic space, the secrets of hidden lives'. Reviewing her work in the TLS, Stephen Knight wrote of how 'erasure, absence and isolation are explored in a voice so ingenuous, its language and syntax so plain, that it takes a while to notice quite how disturbing the poetry is.' Neil Astley filmed Esther Morgan reading a selection of her poems at her home in Suffolk in November 2009. Here she reads one poem, 'The Reason', from her first collection Beyond Calling Distance (2001); then two poems, 'Bone China' and 'At the parrot sanctuary', from The Silence Living in Houses (2005); and six poems from the Eliot-shortlisted Grace (2011): 'Grace', 'Among Women', 'I want to go back to The Angel', 'What Happens While We Are Sleeping', 'After Life' and 'Risen'.