In 2015, Inua Ellams was poet in residence at the Poetry Library at the Southbank Centre in London. His #Afterhours project took him on a voyage of cultural translation and transposition through time and place, to the heart of the libraries archive collections, and through his own life s story as he selected poems published during each year of his life, from birth to the age of 18.
In return, Ellams opens up a captivating and potent dialogue between poems, writing a diary and intricately-crafted poems of his own in conversational response to the poems he selected from the library collections. Here, for the first time together, are the collected #Afterhours poems alongside the re-discovered poems which inspired them and the diary entries which follow this journey. In Ellams meticulous hands, this becomes an entire narrative in its own right, compelling and magnetic, drawing parallels of displacement, language and reclamation, and showing poetry’s great capacity to be a powerful amplifier of human experience.
A Fold in the Map charts two very different voyages: a tracing of the dislocations of leaving one’s native country, and a searching exploration of grief at a father’s final painful journey. In the first part of the collection, Plenty — “before the fold” — the poems deal with family, and longing for home from a new country, with all the ambiguity and doubleness this perspective entails. In the book’s second half, Meet My Father, the poems recount events more life-changing than merely moving abroad — a father’s illness and death, the loss of some of the plenty of the earlier poems.
Jacqueline Saphra’s All My Mad Mothers explores love, sex and family relationships in vivacious, lush poems that span the decades and generations. At the heart of this collection of poems is the portrait of a mother as multitudes – as a magician with a bathroom of beauty tricks, as necromancer, as glamourous fire-starter, trapped in ever-decreasing circles and, above all else, almost impossible to grasp. With an emphasis on the cultures of the different times, we tread a tantalising tightrope between the confessional and the invented. These astute poems step assuredly from childhood’s first exposures to the scratched records and unsuitable lovers of young womanhood, the slammed doors of daughters and sons, the tears and salted soups of friendships, and the charms of late love. All the time, incandescent and luminous as an everlasting lightbulb, at the heart of each of Saphra’s poems is a delicate filament kicking out a heavy-duty wattage.
David Clarke’s first full collection of poems, Arc, follows on from an acclaimed and award-winning pamphlet Gaud (winner of the 2013 Michael Marks Pamphlet Prize, published by Flarestack). Follow the trail of these fleet-footed poems, and you’ll be swept along from sonnets for Scott Walker to Orpheus as white van man, via ‘epic fails’ and sword-swallowing for beginners. It’s a memorable trip you’ll want to start afresh as soon as you finish reading. By turns subtle, bittersweet and wickedly sharp, this is a debut collection of poems to be savoured and shared.
This debut collection of poems by former Birmingham Poet Laureate Roy McFarlane explores love, loss, adoption and identity in powerful, precise and emotionally-charged poetry. From bereavement comes forth a life story in poems; the journey of sons, friends, lovers and parents, and all the moments of growing-up, discovery, falling in and out of love and learning to say goodbye that come along the way. Themes of place, identity, history, and race interweave personal narratives, with and poems that touch on everything from the ‘Tebbitt Test’ and Marvin Gaye to the Black Country, that ‘place just off the M6’. Distinct and memorable, McFarlane’s poems are beautifully focused, moving their readers between both the spiritual and the sensual worlds with graceful, rapturous hymns to the transformative power of love.
Robert Peake’s second full collection of poems is about weathering storms—personal, political, psychological—in our present-day climate of chaos. These are matters of life or death, and Cyclone urges us to consider what the ill wind may bring, and how we will survive it. Peake’s acutely tuned poems bring eloquence and urgency to matters of profound devastation. With shattering delicacy, he writes of personal loss, of grief and the long aftermath; “whenever the wind sprays into my face, I taste salt of your absence”. These poems also hazard an eye at the global weather and find a world in turmoil, wild with unreliable news and terrible forecasts. Manifesting between the storms is the man with the kindest face. Is he here to save us or warn us? A guide or a harbinger? As these brilliantly-visioned poems suggest, nothing is certain in the eye of the storm. Nevertheless, there is some form of consolation and rescue: “He seems at home in this tempest. He seems happy”.
Dorothy Lehane’s debut poetry collection is experimental and exploratory – part daybook, and part astronomical chart, this is a voyage into both the self, the body and the personal as well as into an ever-expanding cosmos of stars, planets and space. The poems of Ephemeris are fiercely bright and tuned in on a precise, musical wavelength of sound and form. Language, seen here through this particular telescope, is exuberant and numerous with possibilities, gracefully testing its own boundaries. In galaxies of sounds and shapes, Lehane brilliantly takes a giant lyric leap from poem to poem, making for something of a stellar debut.
Myra Connell’s House is a startling debut collection from a poet adept at turning the poem’s confines in rooms for the reader to inhabit. These poems are by turns enchanting and darkly disquieting; they invite us in, ask questions, look for clues and mark out telling absences. The house in question could be in the heart of the woods, high up on the moors, or lone block at the end of a lost urban terrace. A cast of characters come and go from its spaces, life moves onwards as the day fades to twilight. The outside world presses in at the windows, a wilderness awaits at the threshold.
As a natural follow-on to the 52 Project of 2014, this book aims to help poets taking the next step in developing, working and participating in the wider creative community as a writer. How to be a Poet combines practical advice and topical mini-essays that examine both the technical and creative dimensions of being a poet. It’s a no-nonsense manual where we’ve replaced the spanners with lots of ink, elbow grease and edits. At each step, we ask plenty of questions – what makes a poem tick over perfectly, how do we get it started when it stalls, and which warning lights should you never ignore?
The second collection by Richie McCaffery, following on from his acclaimed debut Cairn (Nine Arches Press, 2014), explores place and displacement, boundaries and borders. At the heart of these poems, McCaffery asks us to consider what belonging is, and how we find our place in life and in language.
Khairani Barokka’s first full poetry collection Rope is a spellbinding and impressive debut, kaleidoscopic in detail and richly compelling. With a meticulous artist’s instinct, these finely-tuned poems ask urgent questions about our impact upon the environment, and examine carefully the fragile ties that bind our lives and our fate to our planet, our ecosystems and to our fellow humans. Sensual and ecologically attentive, Rope draws on issues of climate change, sexuality, violence, nature, desire and the body. Lush with detail, alert to its own distinct sounds, this is poetry in urgent and vivacious action – intent on finding vivid joy and hope amidst the destruction and dangers of the twenty-first century.
Tania Hershman’s debut poetry collection, Terms and Conditions, urges us to consider all the possibilities, and read life’s small print before signing on the dotted line. These beautifully measured poems bring their stoical approach to the uncertain business of our daily lives – and ask us to consider what could happen if we were to bend or break the rules, step outside the boundaries and challenge the narrative. In feats of imagination and leaps of probability, falling simply becomes flying, a baby collects the data and scrolls through everything it sees, and there are daring acts of vanishing and recreation. Be wary, for even the evidence here often leads us astray. And in between this, Hershman’s precise poetry elegantly balances the known, unknown and unknowable matter of existence, love and happiness, weighing the atoms of each, finding just the exact words that will draw up the perfect contract of ideas.
Gregory Leadbetter’s first full collection of poems, The Fetch, brings together poems that reach through language to the mystery of our being, giving voice to silence and darkness, illuminating the unseen. With their own rich alchemy, these poems combine the sensuous and the numinous, the lyric and the mythic. Ranging from invocation to elegy, from ghost poems to science fiction, Leadbetter conjures and quickens the wild and the weird. His poems bring to life a theatre of awakenings and apprehensions, of births and becoming, of the natural and the transnatural, where life and death meet. Powerful, imaginative, and precisely realised, The Fetch is also poignant and humane – animated by love, alive with the forces of renewal.
Angela France’s The Hill is a remarkable sequence of poems that leads us up the winding footpaths of Leckhampton Hill near Cheltenham. Under our feet are fossils and flora, bones and the relics of quarrying. France is masterful in capturing the sense of place and weaving the entrancing voices of the hill, its walkers and inhabitants, into the fabric of these formally adventurous poems that range from prose to ‘anglish’, richly worded and delighting in their shapes and sounds. Here, we encounter ghosts, foxes and ancient kings. We meet the protestors who, years before the Kinder Scout Trespassers, were standing up for their rambling rights and took the law into their own hands in 1902 when a landowner tried to enclose the hill they had walked for generations. And though history is never far from the surface, The Hill raises questions that are just as important today; who has the right to roam, whose land is it, anyway?
Alistair Noon’s new collection of poems, The Kerosene Singing, roams the borders and places on the edge of many things, whether that’s on the edge of nations and continents, of history or of the realms of possibility. A dynamic lyric energy enlivens everything it comes into contact with in these poems; where history, landscape and language loom large, Noon’s attentive rhythms and wit bring out the most subtle detail. These quicksilver poems invite the reader outand beyond, into new uncertain territories, subject to change without further notice.
The Midlands is the second collection of poems by Tony Williams, following his acclaimed debut The Corner of Arundel Lane and Charles Street. Beginning in the Midlands themselves, where Mercian kings sleep under wurzels near the local Asda, his poems open out into tragi-comic paeans on dog walks, photocopiers, shut shops and lunchtimes, and meditations on what it means to be a person living, wonkily, anywhere. But beneath the word-play and tomfoolery, something strange is brooding in the caverns underneath the hill. History is coming for you, and if you set out to meet it, you’ll never find your way home…
In The Tempest Prognosticator leeches warn of storms, whales blunder up the Thames, beetles tap out their courtship rituals, and women fall for deft cocktail makers and melancholy apes. With her keen eye and a gift for vividly capturing the natural world, Isobel Dixon entices the reader on a journey where the familiar is not always as it seems at first, where the sideways glance, the double take, yields rich rewards. From Crusoe to Psycho, Pink Floyd to Fred Astaire, the human zoo’s at play here too, in a collection filled with ‘miracle and wonder’, wit and bite.
From politics to pop, from the UK to California, wherever digital heartbeats flutter and stutter, Ticker-tape is a maximalist take on 21st century living. From politics to pop, from the UK to California, wherever digital heartbeats flutter and stutter, Ticker-tape is a maximalist take on 21st century living. Rishi Dastidar’s first full collection showcases one of contemporary poetry’s most distinctive voices, delivering effervescence with equal servings of panache and whiplash-quick wit. Here is sheer madcap ingenuity and also impressive breadth; ranging from odes of love to deconstructed diversity campaigns and detonations of banter’s worst excesses, plus appearances from ex-SugaBabes, a shark who comes to tea, to the matters of matchstick empires and national identity. Ticker-tape is bold, adventuresome and wry – an unmissable and irrepressible debut.’s first full collection showcases one of contemporary poetry’s most distinctive voices, delivering effervescence with equal servings of panache and whiplash-quick wit. Here is sheer madcap ingenuity and also impressive breadth; ranging from odes of love to deconstructed diversity campaigns and detonations of banter’s worst excesses, plus appearances from ex-SugaBabes, a shark who comes to tea, to the matters of matchstick empires and national identity. Ticker-tape is bold, adventuresome and wry – an unmissable and irrepressible debut.