These are the voices of those who are silent: in the graveyards, holy wells, the river, the changing tides. A ghostly choir of lost children, hermits, lovers and rough sleepers, serving maids and sailor boys, saints and hermaphrodites resounding through the rhythms of the water. Places and objects communicate also: a chapel, oak tree, back-lane, woodland, riverside town; bones sing and a bell tolls. The poems speak with them and for them, channelling their messages, their visions and their warnings.
‘Through Eleanor Rees’ shape-shifting, muscular poems we enter a place where identity is fluid, where surfaces can’t be trusted. A boy in the woods wakes up younger than he was, his body returning to seed. A clock ‘wrings the day dark’. The city is first an empty vein, then a place of abundance and beginnings. These poems stay with you long after reading. They bristle with images that you feel rather than just read: ‘I am in the grass as the trowel rips through… / I am in the water as it strains through earth to sea…’.’ —Helen Mort
‘These lyrically-confident poems conjure liminal perceptions and question assumptions about the sacred in productive and intriguing ways. They re-focus our attention on the natural world, on Liverpool’s city-scape, and on ancient structures, with haunting clarity.
A shimmering dividing line between the living and the dead is the given prevailing atmospheric of a number of poems here, where the unseen is sensed out of the corner of the eye, and held, and then let go. Alongside these inward perceptions and positionings, the world of actuality and event is always observed with shapely precision.
Here is the world of water and moon, street and cemetery, war memorial and cathedral, field and river, sea, sky, tree and hill. These fluid transformative habitations and zones contain meditative experience of a profound intensity and awareness. This poet offers the reader new and exact ways of articulating the power of place to mirror human longing, sorrow, and fidelity to emotional purpose.
These poems probe the edge-lands of the possible, shifting the scenery of the past. They find their contemporary intent along borders and boundaries, welcoming the ghostliness of such territory, surveying threshold experience, and conjuring-up the sombre magic of resurrection and of re-location in time and space.
This is a beautiful, grave, and expressive collection.’ —Penelope Shuttle
‘Rees’s work is completely deserving of its shortlist position, even more so for a voice outside the mainstream. That can only be good news for small presses, literary awards and non-dead poets everywhere.’ —Ross Sutherland, Liverpool Metro
‘Eleanor Rees’s debut collection offers up a heartfelt hymn to her native Liverpool. Her dense, textured renderings of its landscapes are eloquent, but it is her importunate, ambiguous relationship with the city that provides these poems with their drive.’ —Sarah Crown, The Guardian
‘I love the meaty, muscularity of the poems in this collection. It’s not often you read something engaged with urban life that is intense and personal, rather than sociological and fashionable’ —Frank Cottrell Boyce
‘Eleanor Rees comes from ‘over the water’, and her poems seem to issue from a lyric country where they do things differently. Instinctive, elemental and ready for anything they twist and coil marvellously between inner and outer worlds, never resting for long in either, always beguiling or unsettling the reader …’ —Paul Farley
‘… an ambitious, experimental voice vibrantly charged with the energy of city life.’ —Carol Ann Duffy