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2014 - Winner
With Novelties, Fiona Hile has emerged onto the national poetry scene with something new. These poems are fresh, interesting and almost immediately engaging and yet they're deftly crafted. Her lines have a sparkling energy and always a drive toward hopefulness. They resonate with an evident love of the classics both modern and ancient.
One of the volume’s early poems, ‘The Owl of Lascaux’ takes the reader into an imagination that creates its own world. The first line reads ‘I imagine you chopping the heads off eel/catfish blossoming from the underside of fir/trees tangling with the pneumatic branches of the law’. Then the poem moves through ‘Hells of quivering delight’ to the ‘history/ of love seized as a thread through the spine of the/ Eastern King Prawn,’ and ends by quoting an inscription dedicated to the poem’s speaker on the back of a book, ‘All leaves are withered, all bark is peeled away/ What starts with a trickle ends by bursting into flames.' Those italics can be read as an allusion to the effects of ‘fracking’. The idea of ‘the history of love seized as a thread through the spine of the / Eastern King Prawn’ could be influenced by John Forbes, blended with Fiona Hile’s own brand of dark humour and her witty eye for detail.
Novelties is a rich book as well as a page-turner; replete with unexpected twists, and lightly surreal turns along the way. Fiona Hile’s multifarious references are an open field of possibilities and invite several readings. It’s a pleasure and a relief to find such lucidity, wit, and artistry in a daring first collection by a new writer.