Converted from zoology to poetry at his north east London school, Adam Foulds was educated at St Catherine's College Oxford and then at the University of East Anglia. At Oxford, he was taught by Craige Raine, and at UEA by Andrew Motion. The influence of such teachers is subtly developed in The Broken Word, which combines something of Raine's keen eye for observational detail with Motion's talent for sustaining a measured, vivid narrative. His vision, described by The Times as "microscopically lucid," gives his verse novel a compelling momentum. In The Broken Word a flame is "an upright leaf," a waiter's hand "still as an ornament," each detail building to evoke a scene the reader feels they inhabit entirely.
Entirely, perhaps, but not complacently: The Broken Word is set against the brutal backdrop of the Kenyan Mau Mau uprising of the 1950s, a gruesome eight-year revolt against British rule which paved the way for independence in 1963. The novella presents the story of Tom; a former public school boy visiting his family farm in Kenya before going to university in Oxford. Through Tom's war, Foulds explores a white settler's experience of the uprising. Back in Oxford, Tom's new life is juxtaposed against the ongoing suffering he is removed from. Like all politically resonant literature, the effect of The Broken Word is insistent but subtle.
The challenging form of the verse novella, rarely encountered in recent contemprary British poetry, suits Foulds' pared-down lyricism. Amongst the many endorsements for this distinctive debut, perhaps the most apposite is Christopher Reid's observation that "Adam Foulds shows triumphantly what a verse narrative can do that a prose one can't."
Adam Foulds' next novel, The Quickening Maze, centres on the incarceration of John Clare in High Beach Asylum in Epping Forest and will be published in May 2009. Hearing Adam read his distinctive, serious work points up the weight placed on each word. This extract from The Broken Word, recorded in 2008, is a fine example of Adam's thoughtfully-paced delivery of his poems.
His recording was made on the 3rd October 2008 at the Audio Workshop, London, and was produced by Richard Carrington.