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The Water Table by Philip Gross

The Water Table

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Winner of the prestigious T.S. Eliot award in 2009

Reviewed and selected by our poetry expert, Liam Parkin.

Philip Gross’s collection The Water Table is an exquisitely written collection that Simon Armitage termed one of ‘great clarity and concentration, continually themed but always lively and alert in its use of language’ (Telegraph). Written around a thematic exploration of water, Gross writes of ideas ‘too exact and simple, almost,/ for the mind to entertain’ (Betweenland V). Inspired by T.S. Eliot, his imagery is crisp and focused, and through this, Gross manages to contrast the timelessness of water with our own ageing process: ‘Rain now/ falls on water, in the small hours,/...the mind, the weary mind,/not there to see’ (Thinks Bubble). This idea of being caught between reality, thought and time pervades the collection, and the ten ‘Betweenland’ poems carry this motif beautifully throughout. A fully deserved winner, Gross’s collection offers meditations on human existence and is certainly not afraid to address fundamental questions we often take for granted.


The Water Table by Philip Gross

A powerful and ambiguous body of water lies at the heart of these poems, with shoals and channels that change with the forty-foot tide. Even the name is fluid - from one shore, the Bristol Channel, from the other Mor Hafren, the Severn Sea. Philip Gross' meditations move with subtle steps between these shifting grounds and those of the man-made world, the aging body and that ever-present mystery, the self. Admirers of his work know each new collection is a new stage; this one marks a crossing into a new questioning, new clarity and depth.


'A book of great clarity and concentration, continually themed but always lively and alert in its use of language. Gross takes us from Great Flood to subtly invoked concerns for our watery planet; this is a mature and determined book, dream-like in places, but dealing ultimately with real questions of human existence' - Simon Armitage, T.S. Eliot Prize judges'comment


About the Author

Philip Gross

Philip Gross is Professor of Creative Writing at Glamorgan University. He has published seven books with Bloodaxe, including Deep Field (2011), The Water Table (2009), winner of the T.S. Eliot Prize, The Egg of Zero (2006), Mappa Mundi (2003), a Poetry Book Society Recommendation, and Changes of Address: Poems 1980-1998 (2001), his selection from earlier books including The Ice Factory, Cat’s Whisker, The Son of the Duke of Nowhere, I.D. and The Wasting Game. His book I Spy Pinhole Eye (Cinnamon Press, 2009), a collaborative work with photographer Simon Denison, won the Wales Book of the Year Award 2010. He is also the author of ten highly-praised novels for young people. Born in Cornwall, he lived in Bristol and Bath for many years, and now lives in Penarth in South Wales.

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Book Info

Publication date

10th November 2009


Philip Gross

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Bloodaxe Books Ltd


64 pages


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