The Guardian’s Kate Kellaway reviews Jacob’s Jackself for the Guardian’s Poetry Book of the Day.
Instead of the onerous first person – the “I” from which most autobiographical narratives hang – Jacob Polley entrusts his story to figures from nursery rhyme, cautionary tales and riddles. Jackself, his fourth collection and the recent, unexpected – and in every way deserving – winner of the TS Eliot prize, opens with a quotation from Gerard Manley Hopkins’s sonnet “My own heart let me have more pity on”, a line that gives the book its title: “Soul, self; come, poor Jackself”.
We are in a world furnished by frost, kidney-coloured pools, rosehips and buzzards’ wings. Home is Lamanby – an ancient Cumberland place name. There is an eerie quality about the landscape that makes one consider what people amount to without possessions.
One is grateful for the humour in a work that is otherwise as disturbing and driven as a force of nature. Polley is confidently mysterious – no surprise to learn he is also the author of the 2010 Somerset Maugham award-winning murder-mystery Talk of the Town
Polley has found a way of writing about an emotional journey cut loose from the reassurances of modern context. It is a displacement that pays dividends – as in King Lear, one feels one is encountering “the thing itself: unaccommodated” man.
Read the full article on The Guardian website