Jo Shapcott was born on the 24th March 1953, in London, and is a poet, editor and lecturer. Shapcott has won the National Poetry Competition twice, in 1985 and 1991. Her Book: Poems 1988-1998 (2000; reprinted 2006) consists of poetry from her three earlier collections: Electroplating the Baby (1988), which won the Commonwealth Poetry Prize for Best First Collection, Phrase Book (1992), and My Life Asleep (1998), which won the Forward Poetry Prize (Best Collection). Together with Matthew Sweeney she edited Emergency Kit: Poems for Strange Times (1996), an international anthology of contemporary poetry in English. Her 2002 book Tender Taxes is a collection of English versions (or translations) of Rainer Maria Rilke’s French poems. Her 2002 collection of essays Elizabeth Bishop: Poet of the Periphery was co-edited with Linda Anderson. In 2006, Fiona Sampson in the The Guardian summarised her work: “Shapcott remains overwhelmingly a poet of presence, renegotiating the concrete world with as much brio as her own dancing cow. The consummate openness of this brilliantly intelligent selection extends the possibilities for poetry written in English. It reminds us that she remains a pioneer among contemporary British writers. We should be grateful for her.”
In 2010, Shapcott published Of Mutability with Faber and Faber, her first collection for 12 years. The 45 poems explore the nature of change, in the body, within the natural world and inside relationships. The book of poems was awarded the Costa Book of the Year for 2010, beating contenders in Fiction, Non-Fiction and other categories. The judges commented that the book was accessible, “very special and unusual and uplifting… The subject matter was so relevant that if any poetry book could capture the spirit of life in 2011, this would be it”. Sinclair Mackay in the Daily Telegraph wrote: “Of Mutability, is so especially rich and resonant that it deserves the widest possible readership, even among those who never usually think of reading poems…And there is a dazzling variety of tone and colour and subject throughout – Shapcott’s language dances lightly, and often with wit.”
The Transformers (2011) is a collection of public lectures given by Shapcott as part of her Professorship at Newcastle.
She has written lyrics or had her poems set to music by composers such as Nigel Osborne and John Woolrich. The American composer Stephen Montague created the work The Creatures Indoors, from her poetry. It was premiered by the London Symphony Orchestra at the Barbican Centre in London in 1997.