The Soho Leopard
Hallucinatory, lyrical, passionately musical
The Soho Leopard, shortlisted for 2004 T S Eliot Prize, explores our need for wildness and for stories, adding animal legend and zoological science to Ruth Padel’s glitteringly imaginative canvas.
With her gift for bringing together experiences and tones of voice that normally stay far apart, she sweeps us from Dulwich Pizza Hut to ancient Siberia, King’s Cross to nineteenth-century Burma. In poems resonating with sensuous delight in nature but also with loss and survival, we meet Socrates, urban foxes, Louisiana alligators, Mary Queen of Scots and the endangered Amur leopard. A Chinese painter, the artist in an age of extinction, searches for tigers in a forest destined for the sawmill, while the minister who sold it scoffs an aphrodisiac bowl of tiger-penis soup.
‘Impressively focussed and far-ranging. Silky poems slink up and ambush the reader with fresh perspectives,’ Observer
‘Elegant, allusively rich lines teeming with splendour: a poetic version of Darwin’s vision into the complex dependency between forms, feelings and ideas.’ Financial Times
‘Weird, clever, playful poems about urban animals (sly foxes, sexy beasts, we’ve all met them): terrific!’ Independent on Sunday
‘Fizz, brio and energy: Padel is a linguistic wizard. An eclectic postmodern mix of high culture and demotic experience is her hallmark: The Soho Leopard is her most daring and virtuoso yet. She allows her highly original imagination to reveal the world anew and executes this skill with sharp exactness.’ Poetry Wales
‘Verbally exhilarating, utterly wonderful,’ Hampstead and Highgate Express
‘Her conversation is with metrical innovators like Hopkins and Dickinson. She hijacks tension from syncopated rhythm; but symmetry is also an important aspect of her technique. She proves poetry can talk about difficult concepts in a linguistically interesting, complex way without sacrificing sense and syntax,’ Poetry London
‘Sensual richness, rippling panther energy, restlessness matched in layers of searching description – a high-wire dance between human and animal, with a witty, richly-coloured treatment of the instinctive forces that propel humans towards each other,’ Magma
‘Rigour, complexity and generosity, rich and rhythmic observation: whether in dense lyric description or sparer lines evoking the tiger’s power as living creature, myth, and symbol, Padel’s linguistic mastery and quality of observation yield her most engaging collection yet,’ Poetry Review