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Loop of Jade by Sarah Howe

After recently posting about the Sunday Times / Peters Fraser & Dunlop Young Writer of the Year Award 2015, I was eager to sample the books for myself. Over the coming few posts, I’ll be reading and reviewing the four books that make up the shortlist of this year’s award. 

I thought I’d start off with Sarah Howe’s poetry collection Loop of Jade. I’m not much of a poetry reader and I had my reserves about the book, but I like trying new things and of course wouldn’t let that put me off! 

Born in Hong Kong to an English father and a Chinese mother, Sarah Howe explores her dual heritage in this collection. I myself am of dual heritage so that theme was of interest to me from the start. 

Each poem is unique and original and charts a journey to Hong Kong in the discovery of her roots. Part of that discovery is in the telling of old Chinese tales with a certain element of mythology mixed in, which was probably my favourite aspect of the poems. 

I don’t think  I understood everything I read completely; whether that’s because it’s personal to the author or the fact that I don’t read much poetry, I’m not sure. I’ve read a couple of descriptions of the book and other reviewers seem to have taken away so much from this collection, which I didn’t seem to see. What I did take away was a sense of place and inheritance with a real artistic streak running through. 

The poems are colourful and wonderfully descriptive, and some of the wording is truly beautiful. I really appreciated the blend of cultures which is delightfully expressed throughout. The eloquence of the language really set the tone of the book and suited the poetry form. I also found the language and the stories that were told were quite calming to read which was another thing that I enjoyed about this book. 

Hailed as an unmistakable new voice of British poetry, I don’t think I’m too well placed to give definitive commentary as I just don’t have much knowledge or experience with poetry. But I can say that overall this is a collection that I thought was elegant, insightful and I did enjoy reading it. 

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