When Gillian Allnutt was awarded the Queen’s Gold Medal for Poetry, Carol Ann Duffy wrote that her work ‘has always been in conversation with the natural world and the spiritual life’. Her latest collection, wake, shows the two beginning to meld into one: to speak for, even as, one another. As her title signals, these are poems about looking back, keeping watch over the dying and death of an old world and the ways of being human in that world; but also forward, waiting for the new world and being ready to awaken to it when it comes.
There are, as always in her work, many displaced people. No one here is fully at home in the world. These are turbulent times – individually and collectively – and the poems here reflect that. And yet the poems are more ‘among’ than ‘about’ people: speaking out of the horde, and the hoard, of humanity as a whole.
‘Her writing roams across centuries, very different histories and lives, and draws together, without excuse or explanation, moments which link across country, class, culture and time… Her poems progress over the years to a kind of synthesis of word-play and meditation. In her work the space between what is offered and what is withheld is every bit as important as what is said. She has the power to comfort and to astonish in equal measure.’ – Dame Carol Ann Duffy, Poet Laureate, for the Queen's Gold Medal for Poetry Award Committee
'Gillian Allnutt’s spare, elegiac poems are like runes on bone; messages from another world... There is rich thought compressed within these poems, where spirituality is all the more telling for its quiet capacity to surprise.’ – Martyn Halsall, Church Times [on wake]
‘… Allnutt’s poems disclose the spiritual that is always already a part of the natural world. They attempt to open up new channels of contact between faith and humanity that can transcend historical or geographical limitations. These musical poems function like prayers, for those displaced and forgotten.’ – Nell Osborne, The Compass
'Wake, Gillian Allnutt's new collection, is a contemporary pilgrim's progress, confronting doubt and the cruelties of the world both now and in a historic perspective. She travels the border between this world and the world of the spirit, combining the two in radiantly-spare poems, beyond-haunting, yet grounded in the moment.. a profound examination of human experience in language both searing and serene.' - Penelope Shuttle, ARTEMISpoetry
‘Meditation is the filter through which themes, intertexts and language are developed. This gives a personal, multi-layered dimension to the poems pointing to a search for a greater significance and a deeper sense of life. Nevertheless, the poems are not abstract or unreachable to the general reader; on the contrary they are rooted in ordinary life that emerges in words, objects and stories.’ – Carla Scarano, London Grip [on wake]
‘an arresting, original collage of thoughts, scraps of dialogue and imagery, ‘found’ poetry, and tellingly deployed blank spaces, carrying all the power of a silent, meaningful gaze.’ – Jonathan Doering, The Friend [on wake]
‘To read her poems is to be struck by their elemental, worn, limber intelligence, what Adam Thorpe, the poet, playwright and novelist, praises as their sense of ‘half-revealed mystery’. Her startling, beautiful, mythic work was recognised earlier this year with the award of the Queen’s Gold Medal for Poetry.’ – Jonathan Doering, The Friend [introducing an interview with Gillian Allnutt]