Alan Sillitoe is one of the leading British novelists of the twentieth century, as well as an award-winning poet. He wrote over fifty books, establishing an enduring critical and popular success with his early novel Saturday Night and Sunday Morning (1958), which set a new direction in writing about the reality of working-class lives in post-war Britain.Sil
Sillitoe said that his poetry and fiction came out of totally different territories, and that his poetry revealed his own inner life in a way that he found impossible to do in fiction. Here are poems of love and poems that reflect on the world as he saw it, as well as poems that use the story-teller’s skill to bring to life people and places that capture his imagination and take him on a search for meaning – fascist graffiti scrawled by an unseen hand on a wall in Irkutsk, three sons standing in silence by the grave of their father. This is Sillitoe’s world as seen with his poet’s eye, a vision that is at the same time clear and precise, politically engaged, fiercely intelligent, and deeply personal.
This selection, drawn from his eight volumes of poetry, has been chosen by his wife, the poet Ruth Fainlight.
Winner of the European Poetry Prize 2008
“The poems of a well-travelled man, a reader of maps in many senses, who ranged widely, restlessly, in his life and in his mind; poems that, whether brief lyric or extended parable, all speak to Alan Sillitoe’s flintily individual grasp of the world, in all his voices, authentic, humorous, sardonic and compassionate.”
“It is when he engages the novelist’s eye for incident that he is most successful. “Car fights Cat” relates how a cat faced down a Daimler, tumbled beneath its wheels, then “shot out with limbs still solid, / Bolted, spitting fire and gravel / At unjust God who built such massive / Catproof motorcars in his graven image”. There is a fine poem about a map of the Somme (one of several war-related pieces) and there are some welcome lighter moments in different voices – the rather brilliant duologue “Full Moon’s Tongue” and the jaunty monologue “Derelict Bathing Cabins at Seaford”.”