The Poetry Book Society Winter Wild Card 2021
In February 2020, ventilated tetraplegic poet Owen Lowery and his wife, Jayne, were travelling to Scotland when their vehicle aquaplaned, spun round on the motorway, hit a barrier, flipped over the barrier and rolled over several times, before coming to rest on its side in a field. Having barely survived, Lowery emerged into a world transformed by the coronavirus, one in which life and death had moved closer. During his months of recovery from three brain bleeds, a shattered right arm, multiple seizures and pulmonary bleeding, Lowery returned to writing poems, many of which address the strangeness, the disorientation, of his situation and that of the world in general. Lowery wrote these poems amidst reports of Government and health initiatives that suggested potential utilitarian sacrifices of 'the vulnerable'. Completed shortly before his death in May 2021, the fear and loss of the vulnerable and the voiceless haunt many of the poems.
In the 'Crash Wake' sequence, Lowery adopted a twelve-line form. Twelve lines was as long as he could manage to sustain a poem at the time, due to repercussions from his head injury. The form also allowed him to take what Keith Douglas called 'extrospective' snapshots of the new environment in which he found himself: streets empty of people, an Italian village cut off by the army, a train in India killing migrant workers in their sleep. Recovery, nature and love fill the gaps in this changed world. Lowery's final book appreciates afresh landscape and wildlife, family and marriage, the importance and fragility of life.