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Jay Bernard's extraordinary debut is a fearlessly original exploration of the black British archive: an enquiry into the New Cross Fire of 1981, a house fire at a birthday party in south London in which thirteen young black people were killed.
Dubbed the 'New Cross Massacre', the fire was initially believed to be a racist attack, and the indifference with which the tragedy was met by the state triggered a new era of race relations in Britain.
Tracing a line from New Cross to the 'towers of blood' of the Grenfell fire, this urgent collection speaks with, in and of the voices of the past, brought back by the incantation of dancehall rhythms and the music of Jamaican patois, to form a living presence in the absence of justice.
A ground-breaking work of excavation, memory and activism - both political and personal, witness and documentary - Surge shines a much-needed light on an unacknowledged chapter in British history, one that powerfully resonates in our present moment.
'Jay Bernard's poems sing with outrage and indignation, with fury and passion. They tell the story, among other things, of the two of the terrible fires of our times: New Cross and Grenfell and, shockingly, show how the past holds up an uncomfortable mirror to the present...They have brio, they have brilliance, they are breathtakingly brave' Jackie Kay, British Council and National Centre for Writing's International Literature Showcase on Britain's 10 best BAME writers
Haunting, historical, archival and imaginative... a stunning debut -- Bernardine Evaristo - New Statesman, Books of the Year
This affecting poetic exploration of the New Cross Fire of 1981 (dubbed The New Cross Massacre ) is incantatory, lyrical and documentary. It makes a deep impact both on account of its own narrative and in the wake of Grenfell -- Elizabeth-Jane Burnett - The Sunday Times
Sensitive but devastating verse - Financial Times,Summer Reads of 2019*
A sad and angry consolation, alert to the past... Surge is a mature work, with lyricism both poetic and pop... [One] of British poetry's most distinctive new voices -- Tristram Fane Saunders - Daily Telegraph
Although the fire, the subsequent protests and the founding of the Black People's Day of Action were documented by poets Linton Kwesi Johnson and Benjamin Zephaniah among others, Bernard's work uniquely addresses a new generation encountering this past almost afresh, as it is echoed painfully inthe present... The collection's major achievement is its unfailing attentiveness to the framing of history through the stories of individuals and collectives that the poet holds, urgently, ethically and so skilfully, in their hands -- Sandeep Parmar - Guardian
If there were ever to be a twenty-first century Auden, with all the invention and cultural understanding, understanding of tradition and sense of the speed and the human outcome of foul politics, Jay Bernard is it -- Ali Smith Jay Bernard's poems sing with outrage and indignation, with fury and passion. They tell the story of two terrible fires of our times, and shockingly show how the past holds up an uncomfortable mirror to the present. They have brio, they have brilliance, they are breathtakingly brave. An astonishingly accomplished debut -- Jackie Kay Bernard brings alive the archive, evoking ghosts and giving voice to the dead and the aggrieved from moments in recent history all too painful... At each turn, these are poems that make you sit up and take notice - Diva
The poems here seethe with unspoken rage and acerbity; they read like thinned-out paraffin, something on the cusp of explosion... A brutal indictment of Britain's racist history and hypocrisy in the face of the facts... Bernard's persistent question drills down, line by line, into Britain's dark subconscious -- Marek Sullivan - Frieze magazine
Rarely has the idea of the objectified, violated black body been framed so starkly... Bernard's knack for showing rather than telling [...] ensures that their sustained engagement with tiered identity never feels overdone... Surge is valuable as much for its imaginative acumen as for its unflinching politics -- Camille Ralphs - Times Literary Supplement
Brilliant and unbearably moving... a kind of crowd-poem of different voices, connection the New Cross fire to the Grenfell Tower and all the victims of racism and racist violence in London -- Andy Croft - Morning Star
Publication date: 20/06/2019
Publisher: Chatto & Windus an imprint of Vintage Publishing
|Publication date:||20th June 2019|
|Publisher:||Chatto & Windus an imprint of Vintage Publishing|
|Categories:||Poetry by individual poets, Social discrimination & inequality,|
Jay Bernard is the author of the pamphlets Your Sign is Cuckoo, Girl (Tall Lighthouse, 2008), English Breakfast (Math Paper Press, 2013) and The Red and Yellow Nothing (Ink Sweat & Tears Press, 2016), which was shortlisted for the Ted Hughes Award 2017. A film programmer at BFI Flare and an archivist at Statewatch, they also participated in 'The Complete Works II' project in 2014 and in which they were mentored by Kei Miller. Jay was a Foyle Young Poet of the Year in 2005 and a winner of SLAMbassadors UK spoken word championship. In 2019 Jay was selected by Jackie Kay as one of Britain's ten ...More About Jay Bernard