Winner of the 2021 May Sarton New Hampshire Poetry Prize
In mid-fourteenth century Yorkshire, the plague pandemic wipes out half the inhabitants of a remote village. Left behind is a twelve-year-old shepherd boy, who with the help of his dog survives near-starvation and a brutal winter and keeps his flock alive. In the months and years that follow, he struggles to reconnect with the life around him. He tells his story in a sequence of eighty-four sonnets.
From the judge:
When faced with the daunting task of choosing one winner out of more than 430 manuscripts submitted for the May Sarton New Hampshire Poetry Prize, what does one look for? A first poem that hooks you and pulls you in--and then poem after poem that refuse to let you stop reading. A mastery of craft. Music. An undulating urgency of tone that leaves no doubt about the emotional impulse that drives the work. A voice that you trust, even when the syntax or the material is difficult. And that material needs to feel relevant, of substance, necessary. Not a Soul But Us is an achievement on every front. Set in rural England during and after the bubonic plague pandemic of 1348-49, this verse novel drives to the heart of what we humans are capable of when boiled down to our very core in the struggle to survive--and how, in more ways than one, it's not our intelligence or our resiliency, but love and the non-human animals that save us. Timely, remarkable, and unforgettable, these eighty-four sonnets are so well crafted that we cease to notice the form, swept away as we are by the current of the story and its song.
--Meg Kearney, author of All Morning the Crows and The Ice Storm and judge of the 2021 May Sarton New Hampshire Poetry Prize