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Was It for This


Hannah Sullivan

Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Was It for This Download image

ISBN10: 0374607982
ISBN13: 9780374607982


128 Pages



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Hannah Sullivan’s first collection, Three Poems, won the T. S. Eliot Prize and the inaugural John Pollard International Poetry Prize. Was It for This continues that book’s project, offering a trenchant exploration of the ways in which we attempt to map our lives in space and time.

But there is also the wider, collective experience to contend with, the upheaval of historic event and present disaster. “Tenants,” the first poem, is an elegy for Grenfell, written from the uneasy perspective of a new mother living a few streets away. Elsewhere, from the terraces and precincts of seventies and eighties London to the late-at-night decks of American suburbs, intimately inhabited geographies provide reference points and sites for revisiting.

Nothing is too small or unlovely to be transfixed by the poet’s attention, from the thin concrete pillars of a flyover to an elderly peacock’s broken train. There is a memorializing strain in the forensic accumulation of detail, but there is also celebration, a keen sense of holding on to and cherishing what we can.


Praise for Was It for This

“Tightly written, rich in humanity and humour.”—Tristram Fane Saunders, The Telegraph (UK)

“Transcendent . . . structure, plot, themes, tone, and diction all combine to consecrate the ordinary alongside the exceptional.”—Leigh Rastivo, The Arts Fuse

Reviews from Goodreads

About the author

Hannah Sullivan

Hannah Sullivan lives in London and teaches English at Oxford. She studied classics at Cambridge and then lived in the United States for a decade. Three Poems, her debut collection, was awarded the 2018 T. S. Eliot Prize and the John Pollard Foundation International Poetry Prize.

Author Photograph Credit: Teresa Walton

Hannah Sullivan