Claire Askew interviews, reviews & poem features for How to burn a woman
'This is a consummate collection of poems by an emerging young poet. The central theme of the book is the historical persecution of women and men during the witch hunts of the sixteenth century onwards, and this historic context is approached with great sensitivity, comprehension and creativity.' - Judges Patrick Corbett, Hugh McMillan, Dr Anne Pia and Dr Ian Spring, on How to burn a woman, winner of Scottish Poetry Book of the Year 2022 (Scotland's National Book Awards)
Poet and novelist Claire Askew’s electrifying second collection How to burn a woman is an investigation of power: the power of oppressive systems and their hold over those within them; the power of resilience; the power of the human heart. It throngs with witches, outsiders, and women who do not fit the ordinary moulds of the world.
How to burn a woman was published by Bloodaxe Books in October 2021 and won the Scottish Poetry Book of the Year 2022 (Scotland's National Book Awards).
Claire Askew's poem ’Foreplay’ from How to burn a woman was Highly Commended by the Forward Prize judges in 2022 and is included in The Forward Book of Poetry 2023.
The Herald Scotland, Best New Scottish Books of 2023, in print Saturday 4 March 2023, online 5 March 2023
Claire Askew’s forthcoming crime novel The Dead Don’t Speak (June 2023, Hodder & Stoughton) was chosen for The Herald’s pick of the best new Scottish Books of 2023 feature of 4 March. Her award-winning second poetry collection How to burn a woman (2021) was mentioned at the end of the piece.
‘If you prefer verse to violence and couplets to crime, note that Askew is also an award-winning poet: her most recent collection, How To Burn A Woman, won the 2022 Scottish Poetry Book of the Year Award.’ – Barry Didcock, The Herald (Our pick of the best new Scottish books of 2023)
Read the full feature here.
INTERVIEW WITH CLAIRE ASKEW ON BBC RADIO SCOTLAND
The Afternoon Show, BBC Radio Scotland, Friday 16 December 2022, 2-4pm
Claire Askew was a guest on BBC Radio Scotland’s The Afternoon Show on 16 December. She was talking to presenter Nicola Meighan about her Scottish Poetry Book of the Year-winning second collection How to burn a woman. Nicola introduced Claire with a description of her winning collection:
‘…a vital, powerful book that commemorates those persecuted for witchcraft over the centuries, along with reflections on being an outsider, on love in its myriad forms, on smiles that cut like knives, and the loneliness of the Loch Ness Monster.’ – Nicola Meighan, introducing How to burn a woman on The Afternoon Show
Claire was interviewed live down the line from Carlisle. She spoke about to Nicola about her ancestor Anne Askew, her historical research on those accused of witchcraft and about the parallels she found with the #MeToo movement centuries later. They also discussed the contemporary, personal aspects of the book, and the difference between writing poetry and crime fiction. Claire read and introduced her poem ‘Janet Horne, died 1727’.
Available on BBC Sounds until 4pm on 15 January 2023. Claire joined the programme at 0:43:10.
No longer available to listen to, but programme details here.
SCOTTISH POETRY BOOK OF THE YEAR 2022 (Scotland's National Book Awards)
The Saltire Society filmed the authors shortlisted for Scotland's National Book Awards reading from their shortlisted books, with introductions by some of the judges.
The poetry shortlist video is below. Claire Askew reads her poem 'Library' from How to burn a woman. Introduced at 4:21 by poetry co-judge Dr Anne Pia.
'There's a great power in Claire's work, and there's a tremendous crafting of imagery. At the same time, her language is simple, but it's intense, and for me she obviously speaks to all generations, but she's a woman of her generation.' - Dr Anne Pia, co-judge, Scottish Poetry Book of the Year 2022 (Scotland's National Book Awards)
Claire was announced as winner of the Scottish Poetry Book of the Year Award at a ceremony in Edinburgh on 8 December 2022.
'This is a consummate collection of poems by an emerging young poet. The central theme of the book is the historical persecution of women and men during the witch hunts of the sixteenth century onwards, and this historic context is approached with great sensitivity, comprehension and creativity... A book full of carefully crafted poems that connect the past with the present and raise intriguing questions about the way we live and have lived.' - Judges Patrick Corbett, Hugh McMillan, Dr Anne Pia and Dr Ian Spring, on How to burn a woman, winner of Scottish Poetry Book of the Year 2022 (Scotland's National Book Awards)
'Merga Bien' from How to burn a woman was featured as Poem of the Week in The Scotsman on 26 November 2022.
‘This week’s poem comes from Claire Askew’s second full-length poetry book. It’s a stunning collection, full of tenderness, love, righteous indignation and wit.’ – The Scotsman (Poem of the Week)
Oxford Brookes Poetry Centre, Poem of the Week, online 20 July 2022
‘Big hands’ from Claire Askew’s second collection How to burn a woman was featured as Oxford Brookes Poetry Centre’s Poem of the Week on 20 July 2022.
Read the poem here: https://weeklypoems.brookes.ac.uk/2022/07/20/big-hands/
Scottish Poetry Library, Best Scottish Poems 2021, online 13 April 2022
The title poem from How to burn a woman was chosen by editor Hugh McMillan for the Scottish Poetry Library’s Best Scottish Poems 2021 feature of 13 April 2022. The poem was accompanied by author and editor notes, and by audio of Claire reading it.
Read and listen to the poem here.
INTERVIEW WITH CLAIRE ASKEW ON BBC RADIO 4's START THE WEEK
Start the Week: Witches, BBC Radio 4, Monday 6 December 2021, 9am & 9.30pm
Claire Askew was a guest on BBC Radio 4’s flagship arts and discussion programme Start the Week on 6 December 2021. She was in conversation with host Andrew Marr and fellow guests actor Kathryn Hunter (who plays all three witches in the new film The Tragedy of Macbeth) and historian Malcolm Gaskill. Claire was talking about her second collection How to burn a woman and read an extract from her poem 'Janet Horne, d. 1727'. Claire spoke about the research she did to explore the real women she writes about in the collection, and how she uses poetry to 'capture just a moment of the essence of each of these people's lives'.
‘Claire Askew’s latest collection of poems, How To Burn A Woman, is a cauldron full of spells, power and love. It’s peopled with witches, outsiders, and women who stand out. It too traces historic atrocities and celebrates the lives of those accused of witchcraft. But it also looks at contemporary relationships, of love bordering on infatuation, and the feelings of loss, bitterness and isolation at the end of an affair.’
Listen here. Claire's main interview is from 22:43, but she contributes at 07:35, 34:25 and 38:19. Listen right to the end to catch Claire's big reveal.
An excellent review features in the Autumn 2022 issue of Poetry London.
'Claire Askew's second collection, How to burn a woman, is a daring and defiant response to the history of systemic misogyny and gender stereotypes... Adopting incisive, emotionally charged language and evocative narratives, the colleciton reveals the sturggles, persecutions and inequalities faced by women across different times and spaces.' - Jennifer Wong, Poetry London
The Yorkshire Times, online 7 January 2022
Claire Askew’s ‘utterly astonishing’ second collection How to burn a woman was given an in-depth review in the regional online newspaper The Yorkshire Times on 7 January 2022.
‘Finding a conduit to her own re-definition of womanhood in the form of the embattled seventeenth century witch, Askew establishes a kind of archetype of suffering. Intersecting her narrative thread with poems of pain, recalcitrance, defiance and abject fear, her ‘testimonies’ are sometimes delivered in the voices of the lost, precisely as they act to reinforce her own sense of identification with their memory… Claire Askew’s collection is a vigorously honest prosecution of grievance, a needful resetting of cultural history, and a triumph of resilience.’ – Steve Whitaker, The Yorkshire Times
Read in full here.
Harriet Reviews, Poetry Foundation (USA), online 24 January 2022
'Askew’s delight in image and rhythm stands its ground against her terrifying subject matter... These poems are an elegy against forgetting.' - Layla Benitez-James, Harriet Reviews, Poetry Foundation
Read in full here.
How to burn a woman is available in the USA via Consortium Book Sales & Distribution.
DURA (Dundee University Review of the Arts), online 27 May 2022
‘Here is fiery free verse that captures beautifully the uneven forces of female empowerment and misogyny. The resolution to this tension is addressed through deftly poetic explorations of dysfunctional relationships, exploitation of the natural world, and interpretations of Salem witch trials. By blending contemporary issues with our history, Askew exposes the claims to power, and suggests that as long as we cling to institutional influences and gendered assumptions, we will always be ‘in control of essentially nothing.’’ – Orla Davey, DURA (Dundee University Review of the Arts)
Read in full here.
SCOTTISH REVIEW COVERAGE
The Skinny, October Poetry News, October 2021
Claire Askew’s second collection How to burn a woman was chosen as one of Beth Cochrane’s October Scottish Poetry picks in The Skinny magazine. Claire grew up in the rural Scottish borders, and spent many years living in Edinburgh. She's now based in Cumbria.
‘Bloodaxe has just announced the exciting second collection from Dr Claire Askew, How to burn a woman. Through poems of witches and outsiders, of women who lived on the fringes of ordinary, Askew dives into an exploration of love with her incisive language, poetic tenderness and electric rage.’ – Beth Cochrane, The Skinny Scottish Poetry Picks for October 2021)
Read the feature online here.
Northwords Now, Issue 43, Spring/Summer 2022
‘Written with assurance, these poems feel like the work of a poet who is at the top of her game. They arise out of Claire Askew’s deeply researched investigation of the deaths of women convicted and executed as witches, and she brings them back to life with compassion and well-justified fury…. This is important and profound poetry that reclaims the wisdom and strength of our forebears.’ – Mandy Haggith, Northwords Now, on How to burn a woman
In print and online via the Northwords Now website.
LIVE-STREAMED LAUNCH EVENT ON 19 OCTOBER 2021
Bloodaxe's joint launch reading by Claire Askew, Annemarie Austin and George Szirtes celebrating the publication of their new poetry collections was live-streamed on 19 October 2021, and is now available on YouTube (see video below).
Claire Askew and George Szirtes were reading live and discussing their new collections with the host, Bloodaxe editor Neil Astley, with audio recordings of Annemarie Austin reading, accompanied by screen-shares of her poems. Although three very different poets, their work explores memory, history, oppression, personal history and stories - themes that were explored by George and Claire in their conversation. As so often with these events, interesting connections between the poets were revealed, with both George and Claire having to cross borders and make lives in new countries as children (in Claire's case, this was moving to Scotland at the age of eight).
George Szirtes read first in each set, followed by Claire, and then Annemarie. George began by reading from the first section of Fresh Out of the Sky, a sequence of poems about his arrival in rainy England as a boy in 1956, having fled from Hungary with his family following the Hungarian Uprising. Claire Askew goes much further back in history with her first set of readings, beginning with a poem about her ancestor Anne Askew, who was tried as a heretic, tortured in the Tower of London and burned at the stake in 1546. This was followed by two more powerful poems about real women who were accused of witchcraft and executed. Claire gave a trigger warning so that anyone who does not wish to hear these poems could mute until the start of the next reading. In the second set, Claire read some of her contemporary poems about relationships, while George read some of his poems responding to the pandemic.
[02 December 2021]