A Poetry Book Society Recommendation and shortlisted for the T S Eliot Prize 2022. Philip Gross is a previous winner of the T S Eliot Prize for The Water Table.
With each new book, Philip Gross’ poems extend their conversation between the metaphysical and the acutely physical. His sequences in The Thirteenth Angel scan from moment to moment like flickering needles, registering stress patterns in the world around us – ebbs and flows of weather or events, in our own bodies, in the city streets before and after the pandemic, or on the autoroutes of Europe with their undertow of human flight.
If there are angels, they are nothing otherworldly, but formed by angles of incidence between real immediate things, sudden moments of clarity that may disturb, calm or exhilarate.
Born in Cornwall, son of an Estonian wartime refugee, Philip Gross has lived in Plymouth, Bristol and South Wales, where he was Professor of Creative Writing at Glamorgan University (USW). His 27th collection, The Thirteenth Angel (2022), is a Poetry Book Society Recommendation, and is shortlisted for the T.S. Eliot Prize 2022. It follows eleven previous books with Bloodaxe, including Between the Islands (2020), A Bright Acoustic (2017), Love Songs of Carbon (2015), winner of the Roland Mathias Poetry Award and a Poetry Book Society Recommendation; Deep Field (2011), a Poetry Book Society Recommendation; The Water Table (2009), winner of the T.S. Eliot Prize 2009; 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. Since The Air Mines of Mistila (with Sylvia Kantaris, Bloodaxe Books, 1988), he has been a keen collaborator, most recently with artist Valerie Coffin Price on A Fold in the River (2015), with poet Lesley Saunders on A Part of the Main (2018), and with Welsh-language bardd Cyril Jones on Troeon/Turnings (2021). I Spy Pinhole Eye (Cinnamon Press, 2009), with photographer Simon Denison, won the Wales Book of the Year Award 2010. He received a Cholmondeley Award in 2017. Philip Gross's poetry for young people includes Manifold Manor, The All-Nite Café (winner of the Signal Award 1994), Off Road to Everywhere (winner of the CLPE Award 2011) and the poetry-science collection Dark Sky Park (shortlisted for the CLiPPA award 2019).
‘Gross presents us hurtling forwards, across the circuit board of the modern city, but making the same old mistakes. What we need is perspective, an opportunity to gain some objectivity, and The Thirteenth Angel offers us this divine intervention [of angels] and the opportunity to step outside of ourselves and to view the world from a fresh angle.' - John Field, T. S. Eliot Prize reviewer
‘Mastery is what you would wish for in a 27th collection and it is what you find in Philip Gross’s The Thirteenth Angel, shortlisted for the TS Eliot prize...His easy, fluent ways with form contrast with his conflicted subject matter. He has a questing eye and now, more than ever, writes to make sense of the world in its inexplicable multiplicity.’ – Kate Kellaway, The Observer (Poetry book of the month)
'An unashamedly conceptual and ambitious book... Gross has written a coercively memorable book about the tumults of our time that makes the art of forgetting as enticing as the art of remembering.' - Kit Fan, The Poetry Review
‘Gross is a consummate master of figures of speech, many of them satisfyingly original ... It has been a privilege and a pleasure to read and review a collection which emphasises the achievements of Philip Gross, one of our major contemporary poets, and easy to see why it is a PBS Recommendation, and was shortlisted for the 2022 T. S. Eliot Prize.’ – Philip Dunkerley, Orbis, on The Thirteenth Angel
‘Philip Gross’s The Thirteenth Angel is a book with its finger firmly on the pulse of the sounds of the contemporary world... Gross uses language which is precise and sharp one moment and then veers into a familiar colloquial style the next, which makes him intensely readable.’ – Mona Arshi, PBS Selector, Poetry Book Society Bulletin, Winter 2022
'At the heart of all of Gross's collections has been his deep enquiry into and fascination with the nature of embodiment and existence – what water is and does in The Water Table, the role of language, and speech especially, in identity and the self in Deep Field and Later. Now in Love Songs of Carbon Gross tests and feels his amazed way through the mysteries of the multiple manifestations of love and ageing… Such exactitude of feeling and image is typical of all Gross's work, and no less inventively in this new collection. Characteristic too is his focused, sustained approach across the whole book: Love Songs of Carbon asks to be read as a song-book, to use the terms of its presentation, curated for the reader to turn and return to. From poem to poem, pace and metrics quicken and still and quicken again as the book progresses.' — John Burnside & Jane Draycott, PBS Bulletin
'What I love about this collection is the language, particularly the motif of glass. There's lots of mirrors, windows, screens, shards of glass - all things that relate to connection and how we view the world. If you were to run your fingers along the words of this collection, it would feel like a broken phone screen in that it's fractured and disjointed, but still whole and smooth and part of a bigger thing'. — Aliyah Begum, Poetry Society Young Critic
‘The final poem, the titular ‘Thirteen Angels’ completes Gross’s message. Each Angel is a thing, an experience of reality that one may come across – breath, mistake, music, emptiness… The angels are the lines by which we can truly experience the natural world, beyond the urban trappings of modern life… ‘And the thirteenth angel is the world itself.’’ – James McLeish, DURA (Dundee University Review of the Arts)
‘Philip Gross has long since found his groove. His 27th collection, The Thirteenth Angel, muses on shadows and light, reflections and absences…’ - Tristram Fane Saunders, The Daily Telegraph
'The Thirteenth Angel, like all Philip Gross’s work, fuses the physical and the metaphysical, and lights the profoundest subject matter with shafts of playful humour. He is a poet with exceptional gifts of observation, whether it’s a panoramic view of the earth and its inhabitants or ‘the mutterings of quiet circumstance / under the threshold of attention’.' - Jean Sprackland, Chair of Judges, T S Eliot Prize 2022
‘Philip Gross has been publishing poetry for more than forty years and this is an experienced collection in all senses of the word: full of literary expertise but also the pleasures and tolls of maturity…. ‘Angel’ means ‘messenger’, and this sense of poetry’s communicative power – at once modest and metaphysical – is the defining feature of this memorable, strange and often beautiful collection.’ - Victoria Moul, The Friday Poem, on The Thirteenth Angel
‘The poetry in The Thirteenth Angel… is beautiful, breathtakingly brilliant, visionary, and profound… Anyone with any pretension to being a poet should definitely read this one: inspiring stuff for any reader, poet or poetry-lover alike.’ – Mab Jones, Buzz magazine
‘The Thirteenth Angel is haunted by mortality, by the mess the world is in, but also by all the ways the beauty of the world slips through the mesh of experience, flickers on our sense and lives in our memories. It is a profound meditation on existence, to be relished and read again and again.’ - Colin Pink, London Grip
‘This is a magical, lyrical wonder of a collection which will be read again and again…’ - Frank Startup, The School Librarian
‘The Thirteenth Angel moves out of the shadows of his previous books, by placing matter — its presence and absence, and the interplay — as part of larger questions of embodiment, attention and breath. Gross however creates new poetic worlds by allowing digital spheres inside us, as part of a fresh reckoning of human and machine, in bits and bytes of digital pulse.’ — Amlanjyoti Goswami, Review 31
‘The Thirteenth Angel is Philip Gross’ twenty-seventh collection and it’s a masterly addition to an already impressive corpus of work. A Poetry Book Society Recommendation, it was also shortlisted for the TS Eliot prize (which Gross won in 2009 with The Water Table) and it continues Gross’ metaphysical investigation of the relationship of the self to the wider world.’ – Vicky MacKenzie, New Welsh Review
'Its fertility in ideas, images and perceptions is almost breath-taking. So is the vivid precision of its language of physical description. The world it presents is above all crowded with movement. This is a part of the experience of modern life that Gross captures brilliantly. Glittering details seem to leap off every page ... The Thirteenth Angel offers an almost continuous exultation in the sheer plenitude of life and a rejoicing in opulent language.' – Edmund Prestwich, The North