Image by Crispin Hughes

Sarah Maguire

b. 1957

At once catalogues of ordinary, precise vision...and poems of musical and metaphysical ambition, Maguire is the heiress of Emily Dickinson and Walt Whitman. Adam Phillips, The Observer

The Florist's at Midnight

Sarah Maguire

The Grass Church at Dilston Grove

Sarah Maguire

The Pomegranates of Kandahar

Sarah Maguire

The Invisible Mender

Sarah Maguire

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About Sarah Maguire

Few other contemporary British poets combine the intensity of Sarah Maguire's lyrical imagination with the breadth of her geopolitical reach. From the first poem ('May Day, 1986') of her first collection (Spilt Milk), her searchingly intelligent poems have interrogated how even the most intimate of experiences ('the inaudible fizz/in the cells' of cancer) is refracted through the lens of history (the Chernobyl disaster).

Maguire's poems, written in often sumptuous language, are always grounded in the precisely realised material world. From specific, sensual observations, they open out, as Robert Potts noted in The Guardian, into a 'vast context of interconnections: of labour, trade, traffic; the movement of moon and tides; of chemicals, landscapes, weather, people, buildings, machines; and of time and distance crossed by longing, love and loss.'

Born in west London in 1957, Maguire left school early to train as a gardener. Her poems about flowers (many of which are recorded here) typically examine how they come to be 'cargoed across continents/to fade far from home' (The Florist's at Midnight); challenge traditional floral gender relations ('Hibiscus', uniquely, addresses a man using the metaphor of a flower); contextualise her experiences as a municipal gardener ('The Tree Bank at Ten'); and explore the explosive politics of the Palestinian thyme plant ('Zaatar').

Maguire's poems characteristically face difficulty without self-pity. In The Invisible Mender, a profoundly moving poem about her birth mother, she confesses, 'I know that I'll not know/…/if your hands…/lie still now, clasped together, underground.' And in 'Cloves and Oranges', she openly accepts the finality of mortality: 'I will never come back'. As John Burnside observed, 'Maguire is outstanding: no other poet of her generation writes quite so well, or so poignantly, about the body'.

Founder of the Poetry Translation Centre, responsible for introducing a wide range of international poets into English, Maguire is the only living English-language poet to have a book in print in Arabic, or in Malayalam. In 'Europe' Maguire views the continent from the perspective of outsiders, would-be immigrants staring northwards from the Moroccan coast. As Robert Potts noticed, 'through unrushed, unegotistical contemplation...she integrates herself with the environments she observes.'

Sarah Maguire's reading style is unusually clear and expressive. The title poems of her four collections are among those included in this special Archive recording.

This recording was made on Feb 11th 2009 at the Audio Workshop, London, and was produced by Anne Rosenfeld.

Additional material and useful links

Poetry Translation Centre News


tlisted) 2005 Forward Poetry Prize (Best Single Poem) 'Passages'

(shortlisted) 2005 Forward Poetry Prize (Best Single Poem) 'Passages'

tlisted) 2007 TS Eliot Prize

(shortlisted) 2007 TS Eliot Prize <i>Pomegranates of Kandahar</i>

2008 Cholmondeley Award

2008 Cholmondeley Award

Selected bibliography

Poems/Naderi Partaw (translator with Yama Yari)...


Poems/Al-Saddiq Al-Raddi (translator with Sabry Hafez)...


A Thousand Rooms of Dream and Fear/Atiq Rahimi (...

(editor) Flora Poetica: The Chatto Book of Botanical...


(editor) A Green Thought in a Green Shade: Poetry in the...


New Chatto Poets: Number Two/Susanne Ehrhardt, Paul May...

Spilt Milk (first published, Secker 1991), reprinted...


The Florists at Midnight Jonathan Cape, 2001


The Invisible Mender, Jonathan Cape, 1997


The Pomegranates of Kandahar Chatto, 2007


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