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Image by Caroline Forbes

Penelope Shuttle

b. 1947


In my poetry I give primacy to the breath. For me it is the way the poem breathes that gives it form. - Penelope Shuttle

Missing You (parts 4 & 6)

Penelope Shuttle

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About Penelope Shuttle

Penelope Shuttle (b. 1947) has made her home in Cornwall since 1970 and the county's mercurial weather and rich history are continuing sources of inspiration. So too is the personal and artistic union Shuttle shared with her husband, the poet Peter Redgrove, until his untimely death in 2003. The fruitful nature of their relationship is celebrated in her poetry and in the work they accomplished together, most notably in the ground-breaking feminist studies on menstruation, The Wise Wound, and its sequel, Alchemy for Women. Recognition came quickly for Shuttle with an Eric Gregory Award in 1974 that acknowledged her poetry's visionary power. This quality is something she shares with the poets she read in translation, voices such as Rilke, Ahkmatova, and Lorca, whose early influence was far more profound than the pervading realism of the English poets of the period. Shuttle has also written five acclaimed novels as well as seven poetry collections, her Selected Poems (OUP, 1998) being a Poetry Book Society Recommendation.

Shuttle's poems are full of elemental imagery: water, earth and, in particular, lightening, as in her description of her marriage in 'The Weather House' with its "trembling galvanic rooms". Whilst her subject matter can be everyday - motherhood, depression, bereavement - she refuses to be bound by anecdote, drawing instead on myth and dream to transform reality: in her work "the ordinary seen as heavenly" ('Thief') becomes the norm. In keeping with her role as witness, Shuttle's language sometimes has a ceremonial quality about it, a setting aside of words from their everyday currency which is like the difference between a coin used to buy bread and a coin thrown into a well as an offering "Splashing down//for reverence, not luck" ('The Well at Mylor'). However, when dealing with the intimacies of family life, such as the shift of a daughter into womanhood ('Outgrown') or the process of grief, as in the moving sequence for her husband, 'Missing You', Shuttle can be painfully direct.

A recent comment on how Shuttle shapes her work is revealing: "For me it is the way the poem breathes that gives it form." This close relationship between breath and word can be heard in her elegant interpretation of her poems in which voice and line match each other like partners in a dance.

Her recording was made for The Poetry Archive on 24 August 2005 at The Audio Workshop, London and was produced by Richard Carrington.

Penelope Shuttle's Favourite Poetry Sayings:

"The body is the great poem." - Wallace Stevens

"Poetry is a response to the daily necessity of getting the world right." - Wallace Stevens

"A poem need not have meaning and like most things in nature often does not have." - Wallace Stevens

"The ear of the writer is 'open like a greedy shark'." - John Keats

"'The mad instead' of poetry." - Richard Wilbur

Additional material and useful links

StAnza 2010

Penelope Shuttle and Dennis O'Driscoll talk about their experience of poetry festivals, how poetry has reacted to the increased popularity of readings, Cornish ice-cream and what it's like...

http://www.readingroom.spl.org.uk/podcasts/odriscoll_shuttle.htm

Selected bibliography

Sandgrain and Hourglass Bloodaxe Books, 2010

Delicious BabiesCircle Press Publications, 1996

Penelope Shuttle Reading from her poems, CD, The Poetry...

Redgrove's Wife, Bloodaxe, 2006

Buy

A Leaf Out of His Book, Carcanet, 1999

Buy

Selected Poems: 1980-1996, Oxford Poets; illustrated...

Buy

Building a City for Jamie, Carcanet Press Ltd, 1996

Buy

Alchemy for Women: Personal Transformation Through...

Taxing the Rain, Oxford University Press, 1992

Buy

Prizes

1998 Poetry Book Society Recommendation, Selected Poems

Prize website

1969, 1972 and 1985 Arts Council Awards

Prize website

1972 Greenwood Poetry Prize

1974 Eric Gregory Award

Prize website

Links

Recordings

Penelope Shuttle Reading from her poems

1The Conceiving

2The Weather House

3Selena

4Hide and Seek

5Thief

6Outgrown

7Bird-Painter

8Rescuing the Buddha

9Far in the East

10The Well at Mylor

11St. Nectan's Fall

12Mother and Daughter

13The Breather Among the Metals

14Waterstone Whispers

15Under the Weather

16Scholar's Shop

17Things You Can't Post

18Six-Billionth Baby

19Après un Rêve

20God as Pupil

21By the Water's Edge

22Redgrove's Wife

23Task

24The Fields

25The Inattentive Reader

26Running Out of Time

27The World

28In the Kitchen

29Account

30Missing You


Books & cds by Penelope Shuttle