**Winner of the 2020 Sunday Times/University of Warwick Young Writer of the Year Award**
Jay Bernard’s extraordinary debut is a fearless exploration of the New Cross Fire of 1981, a house fire at a birthday party in which thirteen young black people were killed.
Dubbed the ‘New Cross Massacre’, the fire was initially believed to be a racist attack, and the indifference with which the tragedy was met by the state triggered a new era of race relations in Britain.
Tracing a line from New Cross to the ‘towers of blood’ of the Grenfell fire, this urgent collection speaks with, in and of the voices of the past, brought back by the incantation of dancehall rhythms and the music of Jamaican patois, to form a living presence in the absence of justice.
A ground-breaking work of excavation, memory and activism – both political and personal, witness and documentary – Surge shines a much-needed light on an unacknowledged chapter in British history, one that powerfully resonates in our present moment.
‘The verse has anger and political purpose, but a rare lyrical precision, too. The combination is powerful’ Sebastian Faulks, Spectator, Books of the Year 2020
*Winner of the Ted Hughes Award for New Work in Poetry*
*Shortlisted for the Costa Poetry Award; T.S. Eliot Prize; Forward Prize for Best First Collection; Dylan Thomas Prize; RSL Ondaatje Prize; John Pollard Foundation International Poetry Prize*
*Longlisted for the Jhalak Prize 2020*
A range of poetic forms bring energy to this reappraisal of race, nation and embodiment -- Sandeep Parmar * Guardian, *Books of the Year* * Brilliant and unbearably moving... a kind of crowd-poem of different voices, connection the New Cross fire to the Grenfell Tower and all the victims of racism and racist violence in London -- Andy Croft * Morning Star * Rarely has the idea of the objectified, violated black body been framed so starkly... Bernard's knack for showing rather than telling [...] ensures that their sustained engagement with tiered identity never feels overdone... Surge is valuable as much for its imaginative acumen as for its unflinching politics -- Camille Ralphs * Times Literary Supplement * The poems here seethe with unspoken rage and acerbity; they read like thinned-out paraffin, something on the cusp of explosion... A brutal indictment of Britain's racist history and hypocrisy in the face of the facts... Bernard's persistent question drills down, line by line, into Britain's dark subconscious -- Marek Sullivan * Frieze magazine * Bernard brings alive the archive, evoking ghosts and giving voice to the dead and the aggrieved from moments in recent history all too painful... At each turn, these are poems that make you sit up and take notice * Diva * Jay Bernard's poems sing with outrage and indignation, with fury and passion. They tell the story of two terrible fires of our times, and shockingly show how the past holds up an uncomfortable mirror to the present. They have brio, they have brilliance, they are breathtakingly brave. An astonishingly accomplished debut -- Jackie Kay If there were ever to be a twenty-first century Auden, with all the invention and cultural understanding, understanding of tradition and sense of the speed and the human outcome of foul politics, Jay Bernard is it -- Ali Smith Although the fire, the subsequent protests and the founding of the Black People's Day of Action were documented by poets Linton Kwesi Johnson and Benjamin Zephaniah among others, Bernard's work uniquely addresses a new generation encountering this past almost afresh, as it is echoed painfully inthe present... The collection's major achievement is its unfailing attentiveness to the framing of history through the stories of individuals and collectives that the poet holds, urgently, ethically and so skilfully, in their hands -- Sandeep Parmar * Guardian * A sad and angry consolation, alert to the past... Surge is a mature work, with lyricism both poetic and pop... [One] of British poetry's most distinctive new voices -- Tristram Fane Saunders * Daily Telegraph * This affecting poetic exploration of the New Cross Fire of 1981 (dubbed "The New Cross Massacre") is incantatory, lyrical and documentary. It makes a deep impact both on account of its own narrative and in the wake of Grenfell -- Elizabeth-Jane Burnett * The Sunday Times * A searing combination of artistic invention and meticulous research into the 1981 New Cross Fire -- Pascale Petit, *RSL Ondaatje Prize* Sensitive but devastating verse * Financial Times, *Summer Reads of 2019* * Politically and lyrically compelling -- Raymond Antrobus * Observer, *Books of the Year* * Surge is a radical hybrid, painfully beautiful multigenerational ghost story, a social document, and a work of political archaeology. It is an indictment of this country's systemic hostility to its black, Asian and ethnic minority population, and the scandalous lack of accountability when this system claims lives. It is a heartbreaking and brilliant book about an ongoing tragedy -- Max Porter * Guardian, *Books of the Year* * Haunting, historical, archival and imaginative... a stunning debut -- Bernardine Evaristo * New Statesman, Books of the Year *
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