Clare Shaw was born in Burnley. She has three poetry collections from Bloodaxe: Straight Ahead (2006), which attracted a Forward Prize Highly Commended for Best Single Poem; and Head On (2012), which is, according to the Times Literary Supplement, ‘fierce … memorable and visceral’. Her third collection, Flood, was published in June 2018. She is a Royal Literary Fellow, and a regular tutor for the Writing Project, the Poetry School, the Wordsworth Trust and the Arvon Foundation. She also works as a mental health trainer and consultant.
The title of Flood is very straightforward – it offers an eyewitness account of the floods of 2013 and 2015 that devastated large areasof the UK, including my hometown of Hebden Bridge. Throughout the collection, flood also acts as a metaphor for other powerfully destructive experiences – the Jimmy Savile story, breakdown, hospitalisation, bereavement, the end of a relationship, trauma. It’s not all about destruction though – as much as Flooddescribes how destructive experiences canhurt us, it also expresses how we survivethem as individuals and communities; how we support each other to recover and rebuild.
This collection is a long love letter to the Calder Valley. Starting with my Burnley childhood, it tells the story of how I finally found my family and community in Todmorden and Hebden Bridge: it delights in the urban and rural landscapes of West Yorkshire.Referencing other flooded areas of the UK, it celebrates the landscapes I love, likeCumbria. And it’s a love letter to ‘my people’ –the people who sustained me – my daughter, my community and my friends. And beyond that, the people through whom the most difficult narratives played out: my mother; the relationship I fought and failed to save; long-term patients in a 1990s psychiatric hospital.