Jen Hadfield

Image by Caroline Forbes

Jen Hadfield

b. 1978

I go to the rockpool at the slack of tide/ to mind me what my poetry's for. - Jen Hadfield from 'Daed-traa'.

Ladies and Gentlemen This is a Horse

Jen Hadfield

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About Jen Hadfield

In 2008, Jen Hadfield became the youngest person to win the TS Eliot Prize with her collection Nigh-No-Place. Judge Tobias Hill celebrated her "sheer joy of poetry", while fellow judge Andrew Motion commented: "she is a remarkably original poet near the beginning of what is obviously going to be a distinguished career."

Jen Hadfield was born in Cheshire in 1978 to a Canadian mother and British father. She studied English Language and Literature at the University of Edinburgh and went on to earn an MLitt with distinction from the Universities of Glasgow and Strathclyde, tutored by Tom Leonard. In 2003 she won an Eric Gregory Award for the then unpublished Almanacs (Bloodaxe 2005). Leonard describes her as: "A quick mind abroad alone in the ever-changing natural landscape. The language country-rooted, specific, of clear observation: a sophisticated, refreshing country brew", and Katy Evans Bush praises poems for having an "atmosphere of being told by campfire in a field overhung with living stars."

Hadfield is concerned with capturing the spirit of the Shetlands and of Canada in a celebration of landscape and dialect. As Frances Leviston notes, "This is a dialect with a global dimension" reminding us that, "Scottish settlers left deep marks on the New World." Jen Hadfield inhabits the music of language and is drawn to liturgy and litany. Her poetry is found where the secular and non-secular converge: 'Paternoster' is the Lord's Prayer as uttered by a draft horse, and one can almost smell the mix of grass and mash on its breath as it repeats the words "it is on earth as it is in heaven". 'Burra Moonwalk' is a prayer where the call of "the mumbling wind", is met with the response of "the lapwings tumbling". Both of these poems can be heard on this Archive recording.

Jen Hadfield is a member of the artist's collective Veer North and her visual art mirrors her poetry. In 2007 she received a Dewar Award to research Mexican devotional folk art and to create an exhibition of Shetland 'ex-votos' - devotional miniatures incorporating illustration and 'sacred' text.

In this intimate recording, Jen Hadfield's voice is like a map of all of the places she has ever called home. The vestiges of the Northwest of England where she was born, some Canadian vowels picked up from her Grandmother, and not least the Shetlands, where she now lives, are all brought to life in these often mesmeric, meant-to-be-heard poems.

Jen Hadfield's recording was made on December 16th 2008 at the Audio Workshop, London and was produced by Richard Carrington.

Additional material and useful links

Jen Hadfield film is Bloodaxe's 50th high definition poetry video

Jen Hadfield won the 2008 T.S. Eliot Prize with her second collection, <i>Nigh-No-Place</i>. In this short video she reads four poems from the book, beginning with the title-poem '...

Selected bibliography

The Printer's Devil...

Nigh-No-Place, Bloodaxe Books, 2008


Almanacs ,Bloodaxe Books, 2005


Addicted to Brightness( with Fiona Benson, Rachael Boast...



2008 TS Eliot Prize, Nigh-No-Place

Prize website

2003 Eric Gregory Award

Prize website

(Shortlisted) 2008 Forward Prize for Best Collection, Nigh-No-Place

Prize website

2007 Dewar Award

Prize website

2002 Scottish Arts Council Bursary

Prize website


Jen Hadfield

Jen Hadfield Reading from Her Poems


2Lucky Seven

3The Blokes and Beasties

4This is Us Saint's Day

5Prenatal Polar Bear



8The Mandolin of May

9Thou Shalt Want Want Want

10Still Life with Longjohns


12Ladies and Gentlemen This is a Horse as Magritte Might Paint Him

13Burra Moonwalk

14Twelve Boreal Lyrics


16Our Lady of Isbister


18Love's Dog

19Self-Portrait as a Fortune-Telling Miracle Fish

20Ten-minute break haiku


22Stumba 23Bridge End October



26Glid 27Summer Migrants 28Hedgehog Hamnavoe

29Some Fool Moon Voices

30XXI The World


32Orchid Dog

33Hey Hey Mr Blue

34Ghosty's Almanac

35Melodeon on the Road Home

36M74 Glasgow to Carlisle


38Hooymaand/Hay Month/July


40Lida Aerra/Joytime/June

41Hen Pheasant


43Odysseus and the Sou'wester

44The Wren

45Burra Grace

46No snow fell on Eden

47First poem for Owl and Sophie

48In the Same Way



Books by Jen Hadfield