This book contains a long, new sequence of poems and prose by Frances Presley, as well as a selection of her work since 1996. It provides an important opportunity to see her recent work as a whole, and to appreciate how different sequences interrelate and develop, both in form and theme. Paravane includes ‘Private writing: Vermont journal 1996’, originally published with drawings by Peterjon Skelt, and the important email collaboration with Elizabeth James: ‘Neither the One nor the Other’. There are also extracts from ‘automatic cross stitch’, an innovative collaboration with the artist Irma Irsara focused on dress and fashion; and from the recently published ‘Somerset letters’, which uses experimental prose to explore layers of landscape, language and love. There are two new sections of previously uncollected work. The first ‘Uncollect’ brings together some shorter new poems, including two responses to the work of the installation artist Jane Prophet. Paravane is also the title of a major new sequence, which is a response to the tragedy of 9/11 in New York through various experiments in sound and image. Paravane centres on a walk around the City of London where IRA bombs were detonated, exploring and constructing sites of resistance and dissent. There is a renarration of the legend of Saint Barbara, patron of architects, and other female saints are evoked and reinvented. The unfolding ‘war on terrorism’ and New Labour modernization are spun through and out of the sequence. Sites of resistance are also found outside the city, especially on the high fells in the far north of England. The sequence ends provisionally in Mother Julian’s cell in Norwich, where the walls are porous and a new flame ignites a plastic language.
‘Frances Presley is a splendid and authentic poet whose work shines with exact edge and luminous presence of what she notices and chooses to translate into language.’ —Kathleen Fraser
‘Frances Presley’s writing engages with serious political concerns underscored with deeply personal experience. The world ‘out there’ of unrest, injustice and conflict is not something to be compartmentalised but co-exists with the domestic on equal terms. A summer flower or childhood memory in Somerset blossoms next to the exploding horrors of semtex. She is not a poet to shy away from life but pushes language into its face until it yelps.’ —Geraldine Monk