Adventurous, searching, interested in the luminous instant of reality that dwells in the perpetual now of the poem, Penelope Shuttle is a poet who clearly shares Picasso’s view that ‘If you know exactly what you’re going to do, what’s the point of doing it?’ This selection – drawn from ten collections published over three decades plus new work – shows both her consistency of voice and her energised openness to language and to life. Not for nothing was one of her books titled Adventures with My Horse.
The new poems of Unsent are communications to and with her husband Peter Redgrove, remembering their shared past with love, wit, paradox, exasperation and a lightness of heart towards ageing and sorrow. With these poems Shuttle concludes her triptych of mourning for Redgrove, and ceases ‘to weep on the world’s shoulder’.
If a poet’s work is her personal experience of the universe then this book takes us deep into that Shuttle-verse. In earlier collections her concerns are with language as a safety net from life’s difficulties and a guide through widening regions of love and motherhood. Her themes range widely: personal life, that part of our 'secret working mind’ which we call dreams, the landscape of Cornwall, myth and fairytale. And she has a passionate awareness of the many ways – sacred and profane, comic, sensuous, and joyful – in which we sustain ourselves through poetry, combining a provocative intelligence with uninhibited emotional power.
‘One of our most compellingly sensuous poets… Shuttle is a poet of immense reach, both in the range of her subject-matter and the breadth of her language. She is both an acute observer and an inventive fiction-maker. One senses that she has her life perfectly in tune with her poetry, so that it registers the slightest variation in her state of being. In this sense, the narratives of emotional, erotic and maternal love that can be traced through these poems collocate into the drama of a life lived in the full flood of being' – Gerard Woodward, TLS
‘Penelope Shuttle, as both thinker and poet, seems to me exemplary in her use of the intuitive faculty: a self-forgetful procedure for the renewal of awareness which one might describe as the making of leaps, rather than the taking of "logical" steps, or what Virilio, discussing Proust, calls "the Sophist idea of agape, the suddenness of this possible entry into another logic".’ – John Burnside, Poetry Review
'Her language is worked into something as fluid, slippery and refreshing as a spring. She writes with a buoyant, graceful confidence and she is a unique voice in contemporary British poetry’ – PBS Bulletin
‘I was constantly being surprised and delighted by the way in which Shuttle reclaims the immediate, the sensory, the momentary fragment and turns everything she touches from base metal into shining gold. And these poems are so easy to read. They are full of wonder, of love, they are extremely clever without in any way being "clever clever". I’m sure I’ll go back and re-read them again and again; Penelope Shuttle’s poems are a charm against boredom and ennui. Brilliant work!’ – Steve Spence, Orbis
'…Shuttle's originality is everywhere evident, her response to loss both surprising and moving' – Stephen Knight, Independent on Sunday
'Her poems of mourning...are among the best she has written' - Elaine Feinstein, The Times
'A brave collection….Grief brings a new directness to her work, but this is also a joyful inventory of what remains' – Glyn Goodwin, Books Pick of the Year, Financial Times
'A wonderful book of poetry of love and loss by Penelope Shuttle about her late husband, poet Peter Redgrove. It spoke to me very strongly, having lost my own husband not so long ago' - Maureen Lipman, Daily Express
‘Continually surprising, her sprightly imagination combines the historic, the mythic and the erotic with the everyday. These sparkling collisions elucidate and illuminate the human condition in richly textured language and with a sharp and sometimes mischievous eye. Inventive, sensual, sustaining and, for all its dream-like allusions, unfailing, unflinchingly real' – PBS Bulletin
Penelope Shuttle reads 'Missing You'
Penelope Shuttle reads her long elegiac poem 'Missing You' from Unsent. This film is from the DVD-book In Person: 30 Poets, filmed by Pamela Robertson-Pearce, edited by Neil Astley.