2018 - Shortlisted
Adam Aitken returns to poetry in his marvellous new collection Archipelago. In no mean feat, he reinvents various Parisian landmarks such as Notre Dame, where a bride is ‘voluptuous in silk, holding a bouquet / to the grey traffic jam of manticores above / holding their pose in eternities of nitrous rain’, and Shakespeare & Co, the iconic bookstore, where a range of literary identities are playfully explored. The writing throughout is vividly real, often surprising.
Turning an observant eye to the physical, cultural, and linguistic landscapes of France, and refracting his experiences through a multicultural, antipodean lens, Aitken’s lucid poems transcend time and place, and reveal a poet who, unwaveringly, will ‘pay the price when the salt keeps rising / for the well to taste sweet again’. Archipelago is a complex, moving meditation of what it means to write and to live.