Poetry - Single Window

Tony Cross is reading all the books shortlisted for this year's T.S. Eliot Prize. Here are his thoughts on Single Window by Daniel Sluman...

Single Window is the third collection of poems by Daniel Sluman. It's damn good. It might be the most personal of the collections in the T S Eliot Poetry Prize shortlist, alongside C+nto and Othered Poems.

Regular readers of my reviews will know that I fall back on Anna Akhmatova's 'Requiem' for the quote that emphasises the role of poet as witness. Here Daniel Sluman lays bare his life for us to witness. The stark reality of a year in the life of a disabled person living in modern Britain. It is also a love story.

It is, effectively, a journal of the year 2016 when he and his wife, Emily, found themselves unable to safely climb the stairs to their bedroom. It meant that they spent 24hrs a day on their sofa with only a single window through which they could watch the outside world. It is divided into four sections, each named after a season of the year, starting with autumn. Sluman introduces us to the routines of pain management and survival.

The sections also feature photographs that make this more than just a poetry collection and more an artwork. It's a route Caleb Femi went down with Poor [read Tony's review of that book here - Ed]. Indeed, you could make a double bill of Poor and Single Window to get an insight into what modern Britain looks like if you are on the edge of it as opposed to being seen as fully part of it.

The poetry is fantastic. It is brutally honest and straightforward. The straightforwardness makes them more powerful. It subjects are pain, loneliness, love, family, need and he also shows us how time slips and slides away from you in their circumstances. How the morphine for the pain steals time from you and how the whole process makes you feel like you are being robbed of yourself.

It is also a love story. The relationship between Emily and Daniel, despite everything that each of them suffers from, is the core of the collection. There's one section where Daniel describes Emily oiling Daniel's stump. It is one of the most moving parts of the collection, for me.

"...this is how it feels
to have your trauma held
i tell you your kindness kills me
your grace kills me."

None of that though stops us from seeing the difficulties they are facing.

This collection shows us the reality of a life that we would not see. I hope you get a chance to read it. Because it is worth it.

Follow Tony on Twitter @Lokster71 

About the T.S. Eliot Prize

The T.S. Eliot Prize, for the best new poetry collection written in English and published in 2021 in the UK or Ireland, is run by The T.S. Eliot Foundation. This year's shortlist "celebrates ten books that sound clear and compelling voices of the moment" and includes one debut collection; work from six men and four women; one American; one poet from Ireland; as well as poets of Zambian and mixed-race ancestry, including Jamaican-British and Jamaican-Chinese.

Raymond Antrobus - All the Names Given (Picador) - Read Tony's Review
Kayo Chingonyi - A Blood Condition (Chatto & Windus)
 - Read Tony's Review
Selima Hill - Men Who Feed Pigeons (Bloodaxe) - Read Tony's Review
Victoria Kennefick - Eat Or We Both Starve (Carcanet) - Read Tony's Review
Hannah Lowe - The Kids (Bloodaxe) - Read Tony's Review
Michael Symmons Roberts -  Ransom (Cape Poetry) - Read Tony's Review
Daniel Sluman - single window (Nine Arches Press)
Joelle Taylor - C+nto & Othered Poems (The Westbourne Press) - Read Tony's Review
Jack Underwood - A Year in the New Life (Faber) - Read Tony's Review
Kevin Young - Stones (Cape Poetry) - Read Tony's Review

The winner of the 2021 Prize will be announced at the Award Ceremony on Monday 10th January 2022. For more on the shortlisted poets, including videos, readers’ notes and reviews, visit the T.S. Eliot Prize website.

Image - Amazon
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