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Karen McCarthy Woolf

  • About
  • Reviews
  • Awards
  • Karen McCarthy Woolf was born in London to an English mother and a Jamaican father. She is the recipient of the Kate Betts Memorial Prize and an Arts and Humanities Research Council scholarship from Royal Holloway, where she is a PhD candidate. Described in The Poetry Review as ‘extraordinarily moving and technically flawless’, her celebrated début An Aviary of Small Birds was shortlisted for the 2015 Felix Dennis Prize for Best First Collection and the Fenton Aldeburgh First Collection Prize, as well as being a Guardian Book of the Year and a Poetry Book Society Recommendation. Her latest collection Seasonal Disturbances (2017) is a PBS Recommendation and was described by Young Poet Laureate for London, Warsan Shire, as ‘a strange and stunning collection from a true writer.’ Karen is the editor of three literary anthologies, most recently Ten: The New Wave (Bloodaxe, 2014), and her poetry has been published in Poetry Review and Modern Poetry in Translation among others. She has presented her poetry in many forms, from collaborative choreography and radio soundscape to audiovisual installation, in venues around the world, from Mexico City and Singapore to the US and the Caribbean.


    Photo Credit - Naomi Woddis 

      'This is a book which goes beyond invention to intervention, offering hybrid forms through which to apprehend the world. Consider its 'couplings', which lineate and striate 'pre-existing prose' with response lines to 'create a new lyric narrative' (as the notes elucidate). This is true to how our minds reverberate with information, with the assimilated otherness of alien texts. It does not rest at passive record or academic critique of such an internal state. It makes music, love, and rapture'
    Vahni Capildeo in The Compass Magazine
     'Witty, provocative and lyrically accomplished.'
    Poetry London
      'For all its internationalism, McCarthy Woolf'€s poetry engages with the local and the personal. Reading Seasonal Disturbances is like picking up a London A-Z and finding it'€s a new map of the world.'
    Karen's poem 'Outside' from Seasonal Disturbances was Guardian Poem of the Week, 25th December 2017
     'Seasonal Disturbances is an unclassifiable book, revolutionary in its engagement with form, stunning in its intersectional politics, and an extraordinary achievement that should give the selectors of major poetry prize lists cold sweats for neglecting it. It will break you, in a good way. Truth hurts.'
    The Poetry School Books of the Year 2017
     'A fine antidote to Brexit delusions and certainties: London-watching and form-reshaping, unpredictable and casually intense.'
    Carol Rumens, Best Poetry Books of 2017, The Guardian
     'A masterclass in structure.'
    Magma Poetry
     'Seasonal Disturbances might be strange, but it'€™s also a brilliant selection of poems [...] It'€™s a collection that teaches you something about human beings as well as yourself.'
    The Poetry School
      'Formally ambitious...big-idea poems made up of bite-size insights and ironies that establish political anger and ecological anxiety.'
    The Sunday Times
    'I loved Karen McCarthy Woolf's technically perfect poems of winged heartbreak'
    Maggie Gee, The Observer - The New Review, 29.11.2015. 
    '[McCarthy Woolf has] a powerful command of form and rhythm.'
    Alan Brownjohn, Poetry Review
    Awards won by Karen McCarthy Woolf Winner, 2020  The Laurel Prize for Ecopoetry, Second Place (Seasonal Disturbances ) Commended, 2017 Poetry Book Society Recommendation. (Seasonal Disturbances ) Short-listed, 2015 Fenton Aldeburgh First Collection Prize
    (An Aviary of Small Birds)
    Short-listed, 2015 Felix Dennis Prize for Best First Collection
    (An Aviary of Small Birds)
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