Rembrandt Would Have Loved You


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Rembrandt Would Have Loved You (shortlisted for 1998 T.S. Eliot Prize)

Playing with the male lyric tradition

Rembrandt Would Have Loved You focusses on the gaze of the woman artist, or poet, in a woman’s eye-view of a love affair and of a man. Shifting between vulnerability and guilt, trust and doubt, tenderness, reproach and sexuality, these bold poems explore the risks and complexities of falling in love. Wonderfully versatile in tone, they blend the lyrical and the colloquial, formality and wit, myth and the Spice Girls.

The collection includes the poem that won the 1996 UK National Poetry Competition, ‘Icicles Round a Tree in Dumfriesshire’ which judge Jo Shapcott called ‘a daring blend of fire and ice, passion and design.’

‘Emotion, wit, music, texture and elegance,’ wrote Paul Durcan. ’If Wallace Stevens and Anna Akhmatova were one and the same, you’d have Ruth Padel.’

From reviews:

‘Poise, delicacy and technical venturesomeness, shining imagination and flights of exuberant imagery: this book contained most of the best love poems of the year.’  Sunday Times

‘An iridescent sheen of magical surface undergirded by heart and mind and devastating depth: a poetry of risk and dare, more Hughes than Plath, more Stevens than Frost. The prize-winning opening poem offers enough dazzle and flash for an entire book.’ Harvard Review

‘This book has the quality of a breakthrough. Padel’s linguistic energy presses at the edge of form without destroying it. Her strongly constructed forms encapsulate the imaginative exuberance, the reckless magic-realism of poems that go anywhere: into space, to Brazil and Kazhakstan. We live at an interestingly dangerous juncture: this is the womanly erotic, with self-conscious demandingness and mad generosity, inventing – in Auden’s phrase – ‘new styles of architecture,’ Carol Rumens, The Independent

‘Dazzling linguistic accomplishment, wit and self-mockery: life-enhancing and desolate at the same time, without making a meal of it.’ Bernard O’Donoghue

‘Sheer linguistic genius, with images of a peculiar powerful beauty.’ Maggie O’Farrell, Independent

‘Her vividly realized sensous imagery is teased into meaning in enchanting lyric moments, in which the fleeting passions of time are stilled into a fragile eternity. Her finely cadenced, beautiful fictions accord the hard truths of time, pain and mortality their proper weight.’ Times Literary Supplement

‘Supple, intense writing, beautifully handled, with a welcome strangeness and strength.’ London Review

‘Phenomenally energetic writing: intimacy, strong characterisation and an affecting modesty.’ Michael Hofmann, The Times

‘Full of verve, eloquence and music.’  Helen Dunmore, The Times

‘An intense and sensitive sequence with tremendous richness of sustained images.’ Marina Warner, Best Books, Independent on Sunday