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    He Said I Was a Peach - Katie Byford

    He Said I Was a Peach

    Katie Byford

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    Katie Byford’s vital poems resound with a chorus of restless voices. Stifled by male power and drunken violence, the women of these verses nevertheless speak, alive in Byford’s compelling writing. Persephone defies her ‘mud king’, Pygmalion’s creation describes her own drowning, Clytemnestra plots revenge in a hotel bathroom. Encountered alongside stories from contemporary life, myth embodies profound wounds which will not heal. Yet in this pamphlet, the women can be heard, enduring in their pain and fear and calling us to see them differently.

    Find out more about Katie »

    These are breathtaking poems of a strange, deep glamour; their imagery is uncompromising, and their music utterly original. Byford composes on a scale that is entirely her own. She has a preternatural ability to capture other worlds, other Umwelten – Thetis hearing her son’s voice as 'a warm strain / softening the frozen kelp / like piss', or the shuttling dislocations of Arachne – 'weft thin / softning'. These poems return to sites of trauma or eroticism or myth in a way that renders them immediate, dangerous, and unstable; but there is a beautiful act of salvage here. The world is sifted for its stains, blisters and residues, its sensual drives, and the sticky fingers of human longing. Byford is a reckoning, an uncanny and ferocious rising star.

    Fiona Benson

    Listen to Katie reading 'Salt Creatures'

    Read the poem ≫

    In this interview, Katie tells Niall Munro about the relationship between the poems inspired by Greek myth and those drawn from contemporary life in He Said I Was a Peach. She also explains why she chose to explore certain myths and the relationship between myth and long-standing trauma as it is presented in the pamphlet through women's bodies and experiences. Katie also discusses the role of food and consumption in the poems and reads and talks about her poem 'Appetit'.

    Staircase - Zein Sa'dedin

    Staircase

    Zein Sa'dedin

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    Staircase is an extraordinary debut, exploring landscape, locality and the constructions of a self that inhabits and manoeuvres through many layered textures – mediated by the cultural influences of music and other artistic forms. Those familiar with the neighbourhoods on the seven hills of Amman will recognize the places named, yet all readers will be entranced by them. The Arabic script interwoven through the poems allows the printed word to reflect the literary contours and evocative images contained within this intensely crafted work.

    Find out more about Zein »

    ‘I ask my instructor how easy it is to forget origin / how difficult it is to restore a whole of fragments’. This question echoes along the staircases of Zein’s poetry. The poems travel up towards turquoise mornings and down into the Roman ruins and crowded spaces of an ancient city as it changes, a city that gazes ‘towards whatever else / is west of itself.’ These poems are tender, incisive chronicles of place, navigating the bitter sweetness of going home, the weight of time passing, and the entanglements of belonging.

    Lena Khalaf Tuffaha

    Listen to Zein reading 'staircase'

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    In this interview, Zein talks to Niall Munro about how her home city of Amman in Jordan appears in the pamphlet Staircase, the role that the internationally-renowned singer Fairouz plays in her poetry, and the significance of water and the sea in her writing. Zein also reads and discusses her poem 'when fairouz asks me what language'.

    Sargam / Swargam - Fathima Zahra

    Sargam / Swargam

    Fathima Zahra

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    Poetry Book Society Winter Pamphlet Choice, 2021

    Sargam / Swargam evokes a deep sense of precarity in being, belonging and in the very words we choose to mean home. This pamphlet, simultaneously forthright and fragile, touches on themes of girlhood, shame, desire and an uneasy burgeoning into maturity. Through exquisitely-wrought language and precise character observations, these poems capture what it is to grow up in three different locations, illuminating the legacies of that experience.

    Find out more about Zahra »

    In this stunning debut, Fathima Zahra speaks to all of us for whom home is a shifting foundation. Rooted in the personal, the poems reach outward. ‘You are every bridge across the Thames / and the people crossing it’, they remind us, forging connection even as they negotiate loneliness or fear. Tightly wrought, unafraid to leap, these poems are concerned with containment and dancing, tradition and resistance. Carry them close.

    Miriam Nash

    Listen to Zahra reading 'London Aquatics Centre, Stratford'

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    In this interview, Zahra talks to Niall Munro about how the poems in her pamphlet Sargam / Swargam chart a coming-of-age, and the influence of family figures on the speaker. Zahra also considers the tension between the need to assert individuality and also the desire to be part of a community, and the effects that movement and travel across countries and continents have had on her writing and her concept of home. Zahra also reads and discusses her poem 'Suitcase'.

    Ripe - Isabelle Baafi

    Ripe

    Isabelle Baafi

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    Poetry Book Society Spring Pamphlet Choice, 2021

    ‘Hunger made me’, reveals one speaker in Ripe, and the desire to be satiated fills these poems. Desperate women hide grains of rice in their hair, baked beans evoke a strained father-daughter relationship, plantains endure the fire. Yet hunger takes many forms, as the risks and rewards of its satisfaction are weighed, and cravings for intimacy are charged with danger. ‘When we’re born, we’re someone else’s’, but in this daring exploration of identity and survival, we hear a thrilling new voice come into its own.

    Find out more about Isabelle »

    Baafi’s poems read as daring and inventive signifiers, interrogating a myriad of complex subjects, and immersing readers in a world fortified with wit, curiosity, and unapologetic beauty. Throughout the pamphlet, her poetry tussles with the paradoxes, uncertainties, and anxieties of our current social climate; employing new and arresting forms, and infusing originality into her lines. Her writing invokes a sharp hybrid register, working to ensure an impressive display of ideas at both the word and sentence level.

    Anthony Anaxagorou

    Listen to Isabelle reading 'PG Tips'

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    In this interview, Isabelle talks to Niall Munro about some of the key themes and features of her pamphlet Ripe, such as hunger; her approach to poetic form; the extent to which these poems might be considered autobiographical; and writing about religious faith. She also reads her poem 'Caul'.

    Lung Iron - Daniel Fraser

    Lung Iron

    Daniel Fraser

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    Lung Iron is a highly accomplished debut that takes small observations, encounters and moments of awkwardness, intensifying and expanding them in order to explore the place of the word and our place as human beings in the economies of nature and history. These immersive poems thrive in the uncertain space between the natural and industrial, aware of their presence yet always feeling the pull of that something other which lies beyond them.

    Find out more about Daniel »

    In their alert, elegiac observation of the faded urban, the poems in Lung Iron are rich with snatched speech, questions asked from under the breath. From Gospel Oak to the Calder Valley, they move with the seasons, observing change, renewal and ‘silverish decline’ with a keen eye and an adeptly musical line.

    Martha Sprackland

    Listen to Daniel Fraser reading 'Hebden Bridge'

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    In this interview, Daniel talks to Niall Munro about the unusual title of his pamphlet; the various imagined and real landscapes in his poems, especially the Calder Valley in West Yorkshire; and the place of the body in his writing. Daniel also reads his poem 'Covenant'.



    Ephebos - Kostya Tsolakis

    Ephebos

    Kostya Tsolakis

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    Young, Greek and gay: Ephebos maps a fragile coming of age, exploring the shame, courage and yearning of emergent sexuality. From a sun-drenched Athenian adolescence to adulthood in England, this exquisitely wrought pamphlet confronts an abiding sense of ‘falling short’ – of being Greek, conforming to ideas of masculinity, being a good son, of communicating fully with loved ones and strangers. Above all, these poems deal with the pursuit of happiness on one’s own terms.

    Find out more about Kostya »

    Frank and tender poems, sculpted from the twinned innocence and experience of queer youth. This is poetry as archaeology: small fragments of the self exposed, a moment of hurt or lust brought up to the surface, extraneous muck brushed away, and held up to the light, so we might examine it more closely.

    Andrew McMillan

    Listen to Kostya Tsolakis reading 'Athenian Light'

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    In this interview, Kostya talks to Niall Munro about his relationship with Greece; how and why he explored his relationship with his parents in the pamphlet; and the role that his gay sexuality plays in his writing. Kostya also reads his poem 'Bathroom in an Athens Suburb, 1994'.



    There's No Such Thing

    There’s No Such Thing

    Lily Blacksell

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    This debut pamphlet introduces a poet with a genuine enthusiasm for their reader. There is no pigeonholing these poems; they are amusing and thoughtful in equal measure. Reading Lily Blacksell’s poetry is like watching a tragic movie, going to a comedy show and listening to an album of greatest hits on vinyl, all at the same time.

    Find out more about Lily »

    Lily Blacksell’s poems are clever, urgent and deeply felt. That’s all I ever ask for from poetry, my own as well as others, and it’s a lot. Her work is as keenly attuned to the imagination with an intuition of the askew, as it is to our capacity for suffering and for joy. Poetry with as much soul as wit. In this form where a lot leaves you completely cold, this belongs firmly in the three percent I’d die for.

    Luke Kennard

    Listen to Lily Blacksell reading 'Brook'

    A Hurry of English

    A Hurry of English

    Mary Jean Chan

    Please note that Mary Jean's pamphlet is now sold out.

    Poetry Book Society Summer Pamphlet Choice, 2018

    The sense of movement in Mary Jean Chan’s poetry is both external and internal. In this deft and assured debut pamphlet she strives to forge new relationships with her parents and country of origin, while learning to live out the beliefs and desires of her own emerging self. These poems couple rawness of emotion with crystalline language, and are a significant addition to the worlds of both poetry and queer writing in the UK.

    Find out more about Mary Jean »

    Sparkling and vulnerable, A Hurry of English marks the arrival of an essential new voice. Navigating tangled histories at once personal and postcolonial, Mary Jean Chan sounds fresh notes “in a language [she] never chose”. These poems bring to life a story of queer awakening, transit between cultures, and a mother’s terrifying love shaped by the legacy of political turmoil in twentieth-century China. Hovering between tongues, what Chan’s work offers us is “never an apology / but always / an act of faith”.

    Sarah Howe

    Listen to Mary Jean Chan reading 'Practice'

    Glean

    Glean

    Patrick James Errington

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    Patrick James Errington’s atmospheric debut comes to grips with the vastness of human experience – its memories and unique physical wilderness. The poems are the gleaning of the field of childhood, a slow gathering of what remains after loss. His dexterous use of image takes the reader to a cold yet often welcoming landscape, providing shelter with his words and using our inheritance of language as a journey, where on arrival another sense of mystery begins.

    Find out more about Patrick »

    No doubt about it – not only is Patrick James Errington a real find, the scope of his imagination, combined with psychological integrity and linguistic rigour, mark him out as a poet I’ll return to again and again. He has the strength of will to put the poem first: no stock effects, just a highly tuned poetic mind interrogating its world for the mystery, the roots of pain and the wonder.

    John Burnside

    Listen to Patrick James Errington reading 'Still Life with Approaching Crow'

    Shadow Dogs - Natalie Whittaker

    Shadow Dogs

    Natalie Whittaker

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    Shadow Dogs is a collection of concise, haunting poems of suburban tales half-told, whose visceral and disturbing images are conveyed with unexpected intrigue. This is an absorbing debut delivered with acute, tender emotion from a writer who genuinely cares for their craft. These twenty-one poems herald a poet coming of age.

    Find out more about Natalie »

    Natalie Whittaker has a precise, hard-edged contemporary eye and an unusual, striking sensibility. This is the world of the present with all its incongruities – ring-necked parakeets in South East London or TV game shows watched in hospital waiting rooms. All this is presented alongside a vibrant and unapologetic confessionalism. There is so much to admire in this collection, the reader will surely return repeatedly to the poems to find more to enthral them. The current poetry scene has gained a fresh, exciting voice.

    John Stammers

    Listen to Natalie Whittaker reading '96'

    Small Inheritances - Belinda Zhawi

    Small Inheritances

    Belinda Zhawi

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    Small Inheritances reflects the dialogue between two cultures and geographies, on mistakes often made and the push and pull of ancestry and migration. The poems, born from raw suburban reality, are set free with such strong imagery, coupled with a direct lyrical energy, that you can almost hear the words on the page.

    Find out more about Belinda »

    Belinda Zhawi’s work is characterised by a global sensibility, attuned to several approaches to making a poem. Small Inheritances is a masterclass in what a poem is and can be for in the present moment. There is protest in these pages, but also a glimpse of what healing might look like, whether in a moment of intimacy or in different kinds of intoxication. There are intergenerational kinships and echoes in these poems that illuminate a poetics that so many of us have been crying out for.

    Kayo Chingonyi

    Listen to Belinda Zhawi reading 'rye lane (foul ecstasy)'

    Naming Bones - Joanna Ingham

    Naming Bones

    Joanna Ingham

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    In Naming Bones, her engrossing debut pamphlet, Joanna Ingham writes of the things it is difficult to say – about bodies, love, motherhood, the past. Drawing on nature, and a tangible sense of place, she explores the relationships and moments that make us what we are. These are poems of the tongue and the heart, of finding voice and speaking revealingly about what we think we shouldn’t feel.

    Find out more about Joanna »

    Joanna Ingham’s poems are robust and memorable. Here love and intimacy are portrayed with recognisable tenderness – but these are not poems that shy away from human darknesses or difficulties; they are also unafraid of their own vulnerability. This pamphlet is the black box of emotional memory; within it there are feelings that will stay with the reader, powerfully realised, written in language that dazzles and enlivens.

    Suzannah Evans

    Listen to Joanna reading 'Doing the heart in Lower Five'

    Kismet - Jennifer Lee Tsai

    Kismet

    Jennifer Lee Tsai

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    Kismet opens with the poet as ‘the only Oriental at a primary school in Birkenhead’, a state of isolation – and rupturing of identity – intensified by the unfolding of both personal and ancestral traumas. But this is ultimately a work of hope and renewal. Jennifer Lee Tsai shows us how taking control of our own stories can create a profound sense of connection to life that transcends individual suffering.

    Find out more about Jennifer »

    Jennifer Lee-Tsai’s poetry gives us a crystalline language for loss, silence and memory, where ‘breaking stabilities… like phonetic entities’ make complex the lyric fractals of familial love, violence and desire. The tremendous force of her linguistic authority here reclaims fragments of narratives – of otherness, exile and shame – to offer a self in movement, a voice fired by discovery.

    Sandeep Parmar

    Listen to Jennifer reading 'Love Token'

    The Bullshit Cosmos - Sarah Shapiro

    The Bullshit Cosmos

    Sarah Shapiro

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    The Bullshit Cosmos is a highly distinctive pamphlet that celebrates triumph over adversity, defiance against the system, success over predicted failure. The poems explore the gap between those who read with ease and those who struggle to read. Honestly written, they provide a starkly refreshing approach to our language in a poetry that is provocative and challenging, compassionate and engaging.

    Find out more about Sarah »

    Sarah Shapiro’s formally inventive poems give readers insight into new ways of learning and hearing words. The poems look back on a difficult education, ‘seven times teachers said to my face you’re stupid,’ and from this the poet ‘would resist the bullshit cosmos: know unfair.’ This generous collection gives fresh attention to reading and text while conveying a contagious, direct joy that revels in the language around us.

    Jill McDonough

    Listen to Sarah reading 'When I Turn Thirty, I Have An Epiphany'

    City Poems - Mia Kang cover

    City Poems

    Mia Kang

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    City Poems is in parts intense, abstract and irreverent but above all a strikingly accomplished debut. Mia Kang’s poems range from the occasional to the research-based, with an interest in visuality, intimacy and failure. There is an absorbing thread throughout relating to the actuality (or not) of the creation of the poems of the title. The detail is such that it is impossible not to become engrossed within these exceptional poems.

    Find out more about Mia »

    How do we write to someone? How do we write towards a place from inside another place? In City Poems, Mia Kang engages a tradition of queer feminist modes of address between friends, leaving us with poems that feel like intimate conversations as well as annotations of being. For the poet writing inside the institutional whiteness, architectures, and borders of New Haven, New York City (and the ‘dearest counterpart’ contained within it) becomes a complicated and jewel-like source of escape, pain, and thrill—almost a lover. These gorgeous and sharp-edged poems reckon with ‘orientation’ much like a phenomenologist might, richly intoning words like here and there amidst a landscape of erotic, aesthetic, and political tethers. So that when we ask: ‘Which part/ is the libido/ and which part/ the city, which part the poem/ and which part the lack?” we might receive the answer, “Not to make/ such objects otherwise/ but in service of making/ this plane mean,/ my meaning plain./ We walked around./ We benched ourselves/ while the infrastructure/ threatened lightly.’

    Emily Skillings

    Listen to Mia reading 'New Haven, August 8, 2017'

    Hush - Majella Kelly cover

    Hush

    Majella Kelly

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    Fearless and deeply tender, Majella Kelly’s poetry is vital and distinctive. Her debut pamphlet broaches profound and abiding themes for our times, always with great assurance and stylistic flair – and often with humour. She leads us, in sometimes unexpected ways, from the darkest of injustices to a place of tranquillity: hard-won and utterly resplendent.

    Find out more about Majella »

    Majella Kelly’s work ... has a ruminative and enigmatic quality; she is a poet of the sensed and the sensual. Ritual, cultural tradition, and the subconscious bring powerful energies to lines and sentences that flirt with the everyday while connecting to deeper and occasionally darker histories.

    Simon Armitage

    Listen to Majella reading 'Hymn'

    Hinge - Alycia Pirmohamed cover

    Hinge

    Alycia Pirmohamed

    Out of stock, pending reprint

    Poetry Book Society Pamphlet Choice, Summer 2020

    Shortlisted for the Michael Marks Poetry Award, 2020
     

    This imaginative pamphlet carefully guides the reader on their own distinctive journey to those other-lands created by migration. Alycia Pirmohamed’s poetry, often situated in the surreal, uses the metaphor of landscape and the natural world to reflect on wider themes of belonging, cultural dissonance, and homeland. There is a quiet urgency in these poems, engaging with the experience of both the loss, and the discovery of, language and place.

    Find out more about Alycia »

    Alycia Pirmohamed impressed the judges with her ability to chart an emotional landscape of identity, stretched between the geographical poles of Canadian Alberta and Indian Kutch. Gaps and rifts of this terrain, as well as its bridges and crossings, are mapped with geometrical precision. Yet these lines are created to embrace what is blurry, tentative, elliptical; tenderness hovers over the view as a fog. The disorientation serves as a stepping-stone into another dimension: the poetry soars off the map and finds its metaphysical belonging in the vision of Allah, on the connection to whom Hinge hinges.

    Judges of the Michael Marks Award (For more about the Michael Marks Awards, consult the website)

    The poems in Hinge offer a new map for a land where both heartbreak and delight reside, even if, as the speaker notes, ‘planting my palms together has never felt like blossoming up the side of a mountain...’ In the elegant build and stretch of Pirmohamed’s poetry, we are given exquisite possibilities for language and a green longing, all while she manages to stack lyricism and light in sonically surprising ways.

    Aimee Nezhukumatathil

    Listen to Alycia reading 'Endearments'