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Rachael Boast was born in Suffolk in 1975. Her first collection of poetry, Sidereal, won the Forward Prize for Best First Collection and the Seamus Heaney Prize in 2012. She is editor of The Echoing Gallery: Bristol Poets and Art in the City and deputy director of the Bristol Poetry Institute. She currently divides her time between Scotland and the West Country.

Pilgrim’s Flower

Picador Poetry
2014 Shortlist
United Kingdom

Judges’ Citation

Rachael Boast’s Pilgrim’s Flower is remarkable for its intense lyricism, its metaphysical warmth and precision.

Rachael Boast’s Pilgrim’s Flower is remarkable for its intense lyricism, its metaphysical warmth and precision. Although Boast’s poems do not depict life in any autobiographical sense, they do show us, perhaps more interestingly, a mind in action, a mind that connects with an electric charge to place, people, language. In ‘Double Life’, a poem addressed to Thomas Chatterton, Boast speaks of ‘the mutable self fluttering by candlelight’, a phrase which might serve as the key to her project: it is the lyric moment which offers a way of understanding the mutability of both the observer and the observed; it is the lyric moment which permits glimpses of the fluttering connection between. Other writers are evoked, too: Akhmatova and Coleridge are among those in conversation with the poet. The effect is to bring their writing, their thinking into the present moment for the reader, a kind of layered time-travel only the best lyric poems allow. The layers of history also emerge in those poems, which look inside and outside the boundaries of place. The spiritual and the physical co-exist in the stones of the cathedral in ‘Caritas’ just as they do in the sonnet in which they are held: ‘And what comes across, half-said/into all that space, is that it’s enough/to love the air we move through.’ Rachael Boast’s formal dexterity, her metaphysical reach, the clarity of her language and music make Pilgrim’s Flower a collection of true lyric poetry, at its finest.