Hannah Sullivan reads from Three Poems
Hannah Sullivan’s debut collection, Three Poems, which won the 2018 T. S. Eliot Prize, reinvents the long poem for a digital age. Sullivan reads the opening poem, “You, Very Young in New York,” below.
Video credit: Faber & Faber. Used with permission.
Hannah Sullivan describes the poem in an interview with Ralf Webb for the Los Angeles Review of Books:
“With ‘You, Very Young in New York, I didn’t sit down and think, ‘I want to write a long poem about New York.’ I had written a few fragments, and then I worked a lot on my academic book about The Waste Land, where I was making an argument in favor of the original draft rather than the final version. I was struck by this idea that Eliot’s original ambition, before Pound changed the poem into a much more elliptical piece of work, was to look at contemporary London through a series of different historical and formal modes. The idea of essentially erasing the subject by offering a series of different vantage points of the same phenomenon captivated my attention. So, I thought, I want to write about New York, I have these experiences that are very clear in my mind, what would be gained if I used some different forms to write about it? In the poem, the material that allows for a more satirical take on the city was only generated because I thought, ‘Maybe I’ll try and write something in rhyming couplets.’ Once you start writing in rhyming couplets, a different tone of voice comes in.”
“Hannah Sullivan’s majestic debut offers three big pictures―birth, coming of age and death―but this isn’t a triptych. Instead, these themes extend across the book, with the poems acting as a set of transparencies that enlarge and complicate one another . . . Her authority, reach and ambition are exhilarating. Her metaphorical scope is that of the internet.”
―Lavinia Greenlaw, London Review of Books