Was It for This
Author: Hannah Sullivan
A hybrid new collection from the author of Three Poems—about London, terror, new motherhood, the Grenfell Tower fire, and how we live now.
Hannah Sullivan’s first collection, Three Poems, won the T. S. Eliot Prize and the inaugural John Pollard International Poetry Prize. Was It for This continues that book’s project, offering a trenchant exploration of the ways in which we attempt to map our lives in space and time.
But there is also the wider, collective experience to contend with, the upheaval of historic event and present disaster. “Tenants,” the first poem, is an elegy for Grenfell, written from the uneasy perspective of a new mother living a few streets away. Elsewhere, from the terraces and precincts of seventies and eighties London to the late-at-night decks of American suburbs, intimately inhabited geographies provide reference points and sites for revisiting.
Nothing is too small or unlovely to be transfixed by the poet’s attention, from the thin concrete pillars of a flyover to an elderly peacock’s broken train. There is a memorializing strain in the forensic accumulation of detail, but there is also celebration, a keen sense of holding on to and cherishing what we can.
Farrar, Straus and Giroux
In The News
“Tightly written, rich in humanity and humour.”
—Tristram Fane Saunders, The Telegraph (UK)