T. S. Eliot Prize
Void Studies, Rachel Boast's extraordinary new collection, realizes a project that the French Symbolist poet Arthur Rimbaud had proposed, but never written. Études néantes was to consist of poems written as musical études; these would not convey any direct message - but instead summon the abstract spirit of their subject. This 'impossible project' has been completed by Boast in the most astonishing way, and in doing so she has increased the expressive possibilities of poetry itself. These tone poems are indeed works of pure music - but despite their esoteric nature are by no means 'difficult' in the usual sense: instead they conjure the recognizable states, emotions, moods, ambiances and strange atmospheres that lend our lives meaning, and together comprise a kind of lexicon of feeling. Void Studies is an airy and beautiful book - one in which Boast has spun a pure music to both ask and answer the most profound questions poetry can frame.