From the direct trajectory of her first collection, Straight Ahead, Clare Shaw's second collection Head On turns an unflinching gaze into startling new territories. Structured by interweaving themes of political and personal conflict, the book begins and ends with the recurrent necessity of speaking out. And this is a book which speaks in equal measures, in precise and uncompromising language, about love and tenderness; violence and brutality. Clare Shaw writes to speak to the world. But first and foremost she speaks directly to the reader, through words which shock, engage, disturb and delight. This is a book which - in its content and its impact - sets out to establish and to challenge the limits of language. Exploring with unflinching focus and intent some of her darkest territory yet - but returning, as always, to the light - she offers us a furious but ultimately hopeful exploration of the world as she lives it.
Clare Shaw was born in 1972 in Burnley, the youngest of six children, and moved to Liverpool at the age of 18 to study politics. Her years in the city were marked by frequent admissions to psychiatric wards, which motivated her to become involved in working to improve mental health services. In her work, postgraduate study, publications and activism, she has become a recognised voice on women's mental health issues. She lives in West Yorkshire, and works in a self-harm awareness training partnership with her sister. She has given many readings, and was chosen as one of the Arvon/Jerwood Young Writers of 2003-04. She has two collections from Bloodaxe, Straight Ahead (2006), which was shortlisted for the Glen Dimplex New Writers' Award for Poetry, and Head On (2012).