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Sometimes I Never Suffered: Shortlisted for the T S Eliot Prize 2020

Shane McCrae

5 Reviews

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Poetry

Spanning religious, historical, and political themes, a new collection from the award-winning poet

SHORTLISTED FOR THE T S ELIOT PRIZE 2020

'Out of personal history, out of the history of an enduringly fractured nation, and out of the deep history of language, Shane McCrae is writing the most urgent, electric poems of his generation' Garth Greenwell

'Shane McCrae is one of our best, a great poet who mines the rhythms and vernacular of America, excavating the most exquisite of poems. His work is risky, not risque; intelligent, not clever; deep, not jocular surface play. He is sui generis' Rabih Alameddine

I think now more than half
Of life is death but I can't die
Enough for all the life I see

In Sometimes I Never Suffered, Shane McCrae remains 'a shrewd composer of American stories (Dan Chiasson, New Yorker). Here, an angel, hastily thrown together by his fellow residents of Heaven, plummets to Earth in his first moments of consciousness. Jim Limber, the adopted mixed-race son of Jefferson Davis, wanders through the afterlife, reckoning with the nuances of America's, as well as his own, racial history.

Sometimes I Never Suffered is a search for purpose and atonement, freedom and forgiveness, imagining eternity not as an escape from the past or present, but as a reverberating record and as the culmination of time's manifold potential to mend.

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Praise for Sometimes I Never Suffered: Shortlisted for the T S Eliot Prize 2020

  • Out of personal history, out of the history of an enduringly fractured nation, and out of the deep history of language, Shane McCrae is writing the most urgent, electric poems of his generation

  • Shane McCrae is a shrewd composer of American stories . . . He is a prospector for speech rhythms, collecting his material wherever he can. But American attics are full of old boxes of diaries and letters; and testimony, no matter how arresting, is not itself poetry. What makes McCrae's compositions so ingenious are their marvels of prosody and form, learned from the English Renaissance poems that he read in libraries when he was just starting out. The result is beautifully up-to-date, old-fashioned work, where the dignity of English meters meets, as in a mosh pit, the vitality - and often the brutality - of American speech - The New Yorker

  • Shane McCrae has many gifts as a poet, but among his most hypnotizing is his ability to create poems that simultaneously blare and beacon . . . McCrae has been creating ambitious work that demands - earns - our attention. I often feel out of time when I am reading his words; they arrive with a Miltonic fury, and yet they are so contemporary and critical for our present, strange world - The Millions

  • This sprawling yet astute collection revisits the brutal history that enabled the election of Trump . . . In McCrae's timely observations, the American Dream is an illusion that silences its victims - Publishers Weekly

  • His language remains as stark as the perdurable, terrible history it contains - a history that is not over yet - New York Times Book Review

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