This is what happened
the dead were settling in under their mud roof
and something was shuffling overhead
it was a badger treading on the thin partition
bewildered were the dead
going about their days and nights in the dark
putting their feet down carefully and finding themselves floating
but that badger
still with the simple heavy box of his body needing to be lifted
was shuffling away alive
hard at work
with the living shovel of himself
into the lane he dropped
not once looking up
and missed the sight of his own corpse falling like a suitcase
with the grin like an opened zip
(as I found it this morning)
and went on running with that bindweed will of his
went on running along the hedge and into the earth again
as if in a broken jug for one backwards moment
water might keep its shape
This is what happened
lives in: Bristol, United Kingdom
Alice Oswald, born 1966 in London, grown up in Reading, Berkshire, went from grammar school to Oxford to read Classics at New College, University of Oxford. After studying the classics she worked as a gardener, a work which was hugely important to her poetic development.
Her first collection of poetry, The Thing in the Gap-Stone Stile (1996), which includes poems reflecting her love of gardening, won a Forward Poetry Prize (Best First Collection)
Her third collection, Woods etc. (2005), won the Geoffrey Faber Memorial Prize 2006, and in 2009 she was awarded the Hawthornden Prize for A Sleepwalk on the Severn, a night-piece for several voices set on the Severn Estuary.
In 2009 Alice Oswald was the inaugural winner of the Ted Hughes Award for New Work in Poetry for her collection Weeds and Wildflowers.
After five collections centred on nature, Oswald published another book-length poem, the critically acclaimed volume Memorial (2011), which was billed as a translation of Homer’s “Iliad”. Oswald detaches the events and language of the "Iliad" from all narrative contexts and leads them back to their red-hot core: the Homeric comparisons and the heroic deaths reported in the epic. The poem, although it consists exclusively of translated ancient foreign text, is one of the most modern, brutal and beautiful texts of English poetry in recent years.
The title "Memorial" is program too: Oswald has recited the 80-page poem in its entirety from memory several times.
In 2017, she won the Griffin Poetry Prize for her seventh collection of poems, Falling Awake, which also won the Costa Poetry Award.
Alice Oswald is the current and the first female Oxford Professor of Poetry, after being elected in June 2019 for four years, she gave her Inaugural Lecture on 13th November 2019.
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