Faber & New Writing North 2022

Startling is an event. Startling is a search for awareness and conviction, a response to alarm, and a determination to understand what alarm means. This remarkable book of poems and poem-essay is both an immersion in the consequences of societal insensitivity to environment and also in the splendours of existence.

Moving from hard fact to hybrid-fantastical allegory, a story or stories of living and imaginary human and non-human lives through the crisis of the Anthropocene are enacted. There is a vegetal sensuousness and entwined awareness of mutability, vulnerability and persistence in these poems that accrue and grow into a statement of resistance, hope, and that proffer a mode of living life on a daily basis against the damaged and damaging consequences of human histories.

Linda France doesn’t elevate herself about humanity, and is often dejected within it, but is fully determined to find a healing way through, looks for a path through to a more equitable future for all life of the biosphere. Maybe it’s a conviction of starts rather than ends, but with deep elegy about loss that we haven’t prevented, that we could and should have prevented. Further loss need not happen, and this work — one of technical bravado and virtuosity — is part of that conversation and action.’

John Kinsella


‘Linda France’s Startling manages to be both expansive and precise, braiding intimate observation with a dazzling scope. The collection is hopeful and yet full of the terror of climate collapse, time-travelling and yet absolutely of, and speaking to, the present moment. This is a poet ‘refusing to collude / in the lie / of simplicity’: ecological in her thinking, and rooting her vision into the vast web of connections and complexities behind our trembling, fragile world.’

 Seán Hewitt