Holly Singlehurst – THE SEA TURNED THICK AS HONEY  (The Rialto)



Judges’ Comments

To read The Sea Turned Thick as Honey by Holly Singlehurst is to meet so many startling, original and unforgettable images that it’s hard to imagine having not read it. From the first poem ‘Exoskeleton’ which imagines snails bumping together like teeth in a first kiss, to a later vision of the body as holding pain like copper coins, ‘sav[ing] it up and spend[ing] it/ never all at once’, there’s something corporeal and biting in these poems. Like the titular physio in the poem ‘My physio tells me a joint cracking looks like fireworks on an ultrasound’ or the speaker in the final poem, ‘Love Song from a Seaside Souvenir Shop’, Singlehurst is frantically searching for analogies, euphemisms, metaphors and objects capable of giving physical heft to big abstractions; to embodiment, to pain, to love. In her debut, no less, she pulls it off.




The pain bleeds from my jaw joint, curls itself

behind my eyes, blooms at my temples. I can’t

crawl out of my skin, and the pills don’t work.

When my body is aching, you make me soup.


You run me a bath with hot water, lavender soap;

the soft bubbles make a collar around my neck.

When I dip below the surface, I can hear my heart

beating in my ears. I am a bowl filled with blood.


The whole room sweats, the windows are steamed shut.

You take off your towel and step in. I ask if you know

how many litres of liquid there are in the human body.

You say nothing. You hold my face in your wet hands.


The 2021 Shortlists

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