> Skip to content
  • Published: 5 September 2019
  • ISBN: 9781787331969
  • Imprint: Jonathan Cape
  • Format: Trade Paperback
  • Pages: 88
  • RRP: $22.99


The new book from the greatest living British poet


'Alice Oswald is at the height of her powers in...this electrifying new work' Observer
This is a book-length poem - a collage of water-stories, taken mostly from the Odyssey - about a minor character, abandoned on a stony island. It is not a translation, though, but a close inspection of the sea that surrounds him. There are several voices in the poem but no proper names, although its presiding spirit is Proteus, the shape-shifting sea-god. We recognise other mythical characters - Helios, Icarus, Alcyone, Philoctetes, Calypso, Clytemnestra, Orpheus, Poseidon, Hermes - who drift in and out of the poem, surfacing briefly before disappearing.

Reading Nobody is like watching the ocean: a destabilising experience that becomes mesmeric, almost hallucinatory, as we slip our earthly moorings and follow the circling shoal of sea voices into a mesh of sound and light and water - fluid, abstract, and moving with the wash of waves. As with all of Alice Oswald's work, this is poetry that is made for the human voice, but this poem takes on the qualities of another element: dense, muscular and liquid.

one person has the character of dust
another has an arrow for a soul
but their sto ries all end
in the sea
'An invigorating book-length poem' Sara Wheeler

  • Published: 5 September 2019
  • ISBN: 9781787331969
  • Imprint: Jonathan Cape
  • Format: Trade Paperback
  • Pages: 88
  • RRP: $22.99

About the author

Alice Oswald

Alice Oswald lives in Devon and is married with three children. Her collections include Dart, which won the 2002 T.S. Eliot Prize, Woods etc. (Geoffrey Faber Memorial Prize), A Sleepwalk on the Severn (Hawthornden Prize), Weeds and Wildflowers (Ted Hughes Award), Memorial (Warwick Prize for Writing), and Falling Awake, which won the 2016 Costa Poetry Award and the Griffin Prize for Poetry. She was elected as the Oxford University Professor of Poetry in 2019.

Also by Alice Oswald

See all

Praise for Nobody

Alice Oswald is at the height of her powers inthis electrifying new work… It is out of this world – and in it. It is mythical and realistic, ancient and modern.

Kate Kellaway, Observer, *Poetry Book of the Month*

Sometimes the rush of unexpected language is thrilling… It is a wonderfully skilful tarantella of syllables and imagesNobody is Oswald’s most formally freehand work, a fragmentary gathering of murmurings searching for the excitement of new meaning.

Jeremy Noel-Todd, Sunday Times

[Oswald is] a revolutionary, an eco-poet whose ideas are alive with sensory experience. Her new book, Nobody, is a kind of verse novel which refuses even the conventions of storytelling.

Fiona Sampson, Guardian

[Nobody] is a paean to water, to the fluidity of language and the porousness between beings and stories… Both form and language echo the ceaseless drift, flitting movement and translucence of their uncontainable body…and, as with any memorable trip, the effects of reading Nobody linger in and around the mind long after the experience has passed.

Maria Crawford, Financial Times

The text (and characters) ebb and flow as mesmerically as the sea, a fluid abstraction that speaks to the power of the ocean.


Quiet, woozy, immersive…Nobody…[is] marvellous.

Tristram Fane Saunders, Daily Telegraph

Seldom has the idea of being adrift been so feelingly realised.

Michael Glover, Tablet

An invigorating book-length poem.

Sara Wheeler, Spectator, *Best books of 2019*

Related titles