Rachael Boast


Griffin Poetry Prize 2014
International Shortlist

Book: Pilgrim’s Flower

Poet: Rachael Boast

Publisher: Picador

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Rachael Boast was born in Suffolk in 1975. Her first collection of poetry, Sidereal, won the Forward Prize for Best First Collection and the Seamus Heaney Prize in 2012. She is editor of The Echoing Gallery: Bristol Poets and Art in the City and deputy director of the Bristol Poetry Institute. She currently divides her time between Scotland and the West Country.

Judges’ Citation

“Rachael Boast’s Pilgrim’s Flower is remarkable for its intense lyricism, its metaphysical warmth and precision. Although Boast’s poems do not depict life in any autobiographical sense, they do show us, perhaps more interestingly, a mind in action, a mind that connects with an electric charge to place, people, language. In ‘Double Life’, a poem addressed to Thomas Chatterton, Boast speaks of ‘the mutable self fluttering by candlelight’, a phrase which might serve as the key to her project: it is the lyric moment which offers a way of understanding the mutability of both the observer and the observed; it is the lyric moment which permits glimpses of the fluttering connection between. Other writers are evoked, too: Akhmatova and Coleridge are among those in conversation with the poet. The effect is to bring their writing, their thinking into the present moment for the reader, a kind of layered time-travel only the best lyric poems allow. The layers of history also emerge in those poems, which look inside and outside the boundaries of place. The spiritual and the physical co-exist in the stones of the cathedral in ‘Caritas’ just as they do in the sonnet in which they are held: ‘And what comes across, half-said/into all that space, is that it’s enough/to love the air we move through.’ Rachael Boast’s formal dexterity, her metaphysical reach, the clarity of her language and music make Pilgrim’s Flower a collection of true lyric poetry, at its finest.”


Rachael Boast’s first collection, Sidereal, was one of the most highly regarded debuts of recent years, winning the Forward Prize for Best First Collection and the Seamus Heaney Centre for Poetry Prize. Her second, Pilgrim’s Flower, richly confirms and dramatically extends that talent – but where Sidereal‘s gaze was often firmly fixed on the heavens, Boast’s focus here has shifted earthward. The book sings life’s intoxicants – love, nature, literature, friendship and other forms and methods of transcendence – and sees Boast’s pitch-perfect lyrical metaphysic challenge itself at every turn. Pilgrim’s Flower gives an almost Rilkean attention to the spaces between things – the slippage between what we think we know and what is actually there – and in doing so brings the language of rite, observance and rune to the details of our daily lives.

Note: Summaries are taken from promotional materials supplied by the publisher, unless otherwise noted.

Rachael Boast reads Desperate Meetings of Hermaphrodites

Desperate Meetings of Hermaphrodites

In the hotel on the other side of the mirror
the chaise longue dictates the poem of the film
can only be a snapshot, seeing as the film

is a book – and as it snaps shut it opens
again on a random page at any moment
of a keyhole or doorframe through which

you look for an unabridged view of whoever
has left their black brogue and white stiletto
in the corridor exchanged for a halo of the five

points of a star becoming the snap of a finger until
you’re falling back through the smashed mirror
into the room – or so it looked – seeing as the mirror

is a poem, which, in any case, is made of water –
finding the dripping statue, from whose mouth
all this had come, is dressing up as you.

From Pilgrim’s Flower by Rachael Boast
Copyright © Rachael Boast 2013

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Photo credit: Jonathan Boast

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