About Hannah Lowe
‘Every now and again there arrives at a poetry magazine a poem that clearly announces a new voice… with something to say, and in brilliant command of the means of saying it’, said The Rialto editor Michael Mackim of reading Hannah Lowe’s much-praised poem, ‘Fist’. Lowe went on to publish a pamphlet with the Rialto, The Hitcher (2011), and a full-length collection with Bloodaxe in 2013, Chick, which was shortlisted for several prizes including The Forward Prize for Best First Collection. She has since published two pamphlets, Rx (sine wave peak, 2013), a sequence of love poems written over the course of a summer, and Ormonde (Hercules Editions, 2014), a specially produced chapbook charting the voyage of the 1947 SS Ormonde from Jamaica to the UK through the lens of her Chinese-Jamaican immigrant father, a passenger on the boat. Lowe was selected as a ‘Next Generation’ poet by the Poetry Book Society in 2014. Hannah completed a PhD at Newcastle University, teaches Creative Writing at Oxford Brookes, and her prose memoir, Long Time No See, was published in July 2015 by Periscope books.
‘Fist’ is a poem both urgent and intensely meditative as it chronicles the ‘foot high spray of blood’ shot spontaneously from the speaker’s brother in the commotion of a New Year’s Eve party, 1993. It is typical of what Penelope Shuttle (and indeed Mackim) calls Lowe’s ‘commanding style’: the long, enjambing sentences akin to the ‘music [that] carried on’ after the shock of the incident and the temperature drop, the widening rhetorical arc as the poem moves through the redemptive-subjective (‘I listened to the incantation… I was praying’) to then speak of ‘the girl inside’, and the magnanimity of the poem’s close where ‘men with blankets… saved us all’. ‘Barley Lane’ juggles the idiosyncrasies of schoolyard nostalgia, speaking not just for known peers – Mina, Nirpal, Paul Mclean – but ‘all the children of the playing fields’. The gaze shifts from the ‘matron in the corridor’ to the Angel ‘wire-hanger mobiles strung with tinsel / turning in the air above’, and this conceit is striking for its inevitability (the mobiles are of course always waiting there at the end of the poem) and the suddenness of the image of these young people, or Angels, forever ‘lost’. Lowe’s recordings often include generous introductions that build on her work’s biographical nature – that of her cardsharp father, of Chinese sausages drying out on the washing line, or her time in California – that reflect much of the poems’ sense of wonder and empathy. Her delivery is mellifluent, softly distinct in its Essex accent, and often quietly passionate, as it turns a woman ‘crooning down a melody’ into something more tender, a tone almost resembling a whisper… ‘I can’t give you anything, but love baby’.
Hannah Lowe’s favourite poetry sayings:
‘Now I think poetry will save nothing from oblivion, but I keep writing about the ordinary because for me it’s the home of the extraordinary, the only home’ – Philip Levine
‘I loved them, my children, my wife, my home;
I loved them as poets love the poetry
that kills them, as drowned sailors the sea.’
– Derek Walcott
‘If after I read a poem the world looks like that poem for 24 hours or so I’m sure it’s a good one – and the same goes for paintings.’ – Elizabeth Bishop
This recording was made for the Poetry Archive on 22nd January 2015 at the Soundhouse and was produced by Anne Rosenfeld.