I've been having some email conversations recently with a poet called Jen Hadfield, who lives some 600-odd miles north of London in the remote Shetland Islands, so I thought I'd post something up here about her work as she is only just beginning to make her mark on the UK poetry scene.
Jen Hadfield was born in Chesire in 1978 and is half-Canadian, as I understand it. She's published one full-length poetry collection with Bloodaxe, entitled 'Almanacs' (you can buy it here on amazon.co.uk), and is also an artist - click here to find some of her work at the Peedie Gallery, Orkney. For samples of Jen Hadfield's poetry and more about her life and various preoccupations, you can visit her website Rogue Seeds.
Her poetry is both delicate and muscular, which is an odd combination; I think it's the form which seems delicate to me, and the language which comes across as muscular. Living in the Shetlands, Jen is obviously influenced by that rugged scenery in terms of language and imagery, yet the forms she chooses tend to dance around, refusing to be pinned down and often inhabiting odd parts of the page, reminding me of some avant-garde work I've read, though rarely as opaque!
In spite of the rural Scottish connection, these are not poems about wild flowers and seascapes, although those can be found in her work, naturally enough. Instead, there's a sophisticated world-trekking mindset behind her poetry which requires a far larger - and wilder - canvas than the simple mainstream lyric, and the characters she adopts in her narrative-style poetry suggest an eccentric novelist or playwright working in a tighter form. Which is not to say that poetry isn't her form, just that she appears to be doing something very different and more ambitious with it in comparison to many of her peers. Basically, Jen Hadfield's first collection of poetry is Gordon Wardman's Hank meets Alan Warner's Morvern Callar meets High Plains Drifter. Confused? Well, that's what Google is for.
She's at work now on her second collection, Nigh-No-Place, amongst other things. Definitely one to watch ...