Praise and Poems
Shortlisted for Ted Hughes Award 2011
Ever since Ken Smith’s Wormwood contemporary poets have been writing about prisons, their inmates, and the ‘system’. The easy temptation is to be voyeuristic, distanced, protective of self and safety. The Privilege Of Rain avoids these options, and in a sequence of stunning poems and prose sketches brings home to the reader what loss of liberty feels like, what the day to day reality of institutionalisation does to prisoner and staff, why prisoners long for ‘the privilege of rain’. With rare humanity, depth of compassion, and eye for the tell-tale detail, David Swann writes of prison in ways that vividly convey the felt experience of life inside. The collection poses some hard questions: Is justice always about punishment, or can rehabilitation, renewal, redemption also be part of the process? Have criminals lost some of their humanity through their offences, and should they made to lose even more it on the inside, or should they instead be encouraged to reclaim what dignity has gone? Does prison work?’ The Privilege Of Rain takes its place alongside those books that portray incarceration as a process where humanity must show grace under pressure if it is to survive. I cannot recommend this superb first collection highly enough. – John O’Donoghue, author of Sectioned: A Life Interrupted
You might think it’s the least of their worries, but prisoners long to feel the rain. This was one of the poignant discoveries made by David Swann after spending a year as writer in
residence. – The Independent
The Privilege of Rain is often richly imaginative, and explores a worthy subject. I applaud its variety of form, as well as the aims of its project: to break down the walls between institution
and reader. – Mark Burnhope
Rather than being judgmental… [the title piece] asks no questions, but instead shows with a keen and humane eye how life carries on, how the things you take for granted, the little things
like the drizzle back home, should never be unappreciated. – Dogmatika
A mixture of poems and prose which works very well, perfectly pitched – the poems pause you, keep you in the intensity of a thought and image, while the prose stretches you into
reflection, conversation, the bigger environment that the work comes from. – Jackie Wills
I have not been touched by her hand,
nor felt it move through the drizzle
that might shine on a coat.
Not shivered as her fingers trail the arm
to the sleeve. To hover on the sleeve
and then slide into the clasp.
Not closed my own fingers
around her quiet bones, nor seen
the slow beat of those eyes,
the steady gaze which says, through rain:
‘I am watching. You are safe.’
Not heard that, nor seen the mouth
which forms the kiss. But I have felt her
deep in the chalks and irons
that make me more than stone.
I have known silence and also trust.
And I have watched the slow comings
of dawn over the slates of this jail,
wondering how the days get here
and where they go. And who I am.
And how I know that I am safe.