About Jen Hadfield
In 2008, Jen Hadfield became the youngest person to win the TS Eliot Prize with her collection Nigh-No-Place. Judge Tobias Hill celebrated her “sheer joy of poetry”, while fellow judge Andrew Motion commented: “she is a remarkably original poet near the beginning of what is obviously going to be a distinguished career.”
Jen Hadfield was born in Cheshire in 1978 to a Canadian mother and British father. She studied English Language and Literature at the University of Edinburgh and went on to earn an MLitt with distinction from the Universities of Glasgow and Strathclyde, tutored by Tom Leonard. In 2003 she won an Eric Gregory Award for the then unpublished Almanacs (Bloodaxe 2005). Leonard describes her as: “A quick mind abroad alone in the ever-changing natural landscape. The language country-rooted, specific, of clear observation: a sophisticated, refreshing country brew”, and Katy Evans Bush praises poems for having an “atmosphere of being told by campfire in a field overhung with living stars.”
Hadfield is concerned with capturing the spirit of the Shetlands and of Canada in a celebration of landscape and dialect. As Frances Leviston notes, “This is a dialect with a global dimension” reminding us that, “Scottish settlers left deep marks on the New World.” Jen Hadfield inhabits the music of language and is drawn to liturgy and litany. Her poetry is found where the secular and non-secular converge: ‘Paternoster’ is the Lord’s Prayer as uttered by a draft horse, and one can almost smell the mix of grass and mash on its breath as it repeats the words “it is on earth as it is in heaven”. ‘Burra Moonwalk’ is a prayer where the call of “the mumbling wind”, is met with the response of “the lapwings tumbling”. Both of these poems can be heard on this Archive recording.
Jen Hadfield is a member of the artist’s collective Veer North and her visual art mirrors her poetry. In 2007 she received a Dewar Award to research Mexican devotional folk art and to create an exhibition of Shetland ‘ex-votos’ – devotional miniatures incorporating illustration and ‘sacred’ text.
In this intimate recording, Jen Hadfield’s voice is like a map of all of the places she has ever called home. The vestiges of the Northwest of England where she was born, some Canadian vowels picked up from her Grandmother, and not least the Shetlands, where she now lives, are all brought to life in these often mesmeric, meant-to-be-heard poems.
Jen Hadfield's recording was made on December 16th 2008 at the Audio Workshop, London and was produced by Richard Carrington.