Shortlisted for The Felix Dennis Prize for Best First Collection Forward Poetry Prizes 2008
‘Los Alamos Mon Amour’ explodes in the heart of the desert and unleashes a chain reaction of intense, moving, erotic and often darkly comical poems. Marlon Brando, Saddam Hussein, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, the Queen Mother, Hannibal Lecter, and Yuri Gagarin wander through the blasted landscape encountering Italian wolves, Desert Orchid and the London Whale along the way.
Around a core of searing love poems, ‘Los Alamos Mon Amour’ embraces passion, nostalgia, fear and wonder. A lost parent inspires terror and compassion by turns; madness intrudes upon the mundane; and St. Paul’s Cathedral mutates in a sequence of bizarre love letters to Wren’s iconic masterpiece.
From traditional sonnets to a narrative constructed entirely from film poster taglines, the poems are formally and aesthetically restless, nosing around London, New York, Italy, and Yorkshire, watched over by the spirits of Lowell, Berryman, Hughes, Hitchcock, Mario Bava and Dario Argento.
The poems veer from the terrifying to the tender, the comic to the apocalyptic, the lustful to the philosophical, and the cosmic to the domestic – often within the same line. An energetic and entertaining new voice in contemporary poetry: profound and playful by turns.
‘Simon Barraclough offers up a poetry of contrasts: he is a relaxed formalist, a hands-off sensualist, a subtle polemicist and a humorist you can take seriously. All these strands are brought together by a deft hand under the watch of a filmic eye.’ —Roddy Lumsden
‘Barraclough can turn a world-weary hangover into a zoetrope of colour and shadow. He can move you with the precision of his imagery and rhyme and shock you with a sudden correlation. Throughout this marvellously unsettling noirish collection, Barraclough never succumbs to introspection: even in the bleakest of storms, his poetry remains determined to look outwards, to engage and entrance.’ —Luke Kennard
‘Simon Barraclough’s versatile imagination explores diverse subjects in a linguistically inventive style that varies in tone from sardonic to compassionate. A moving and at times painfully funny first collection.’ —Daljit Nagra
‘Sharing with other admirers of the late Michael Donaghy a winning propensity for using mythical America as a lexical paint-box, Simon Barraclough stands out even among the stand-outs in his readiness to make a knowing reference to the popular arts twice per line. But the best proof is here: poems with the unmistakeable stamp of a vision asserting itself through vocabulary.’ —Clive James
‘Barraclough may see himself as travelling lightly through the world, but he catches the sense of what it's like to live in the modern city more astutely and more often than most other poets. Salt is to be congratulated on investing in publishing his first collection in hardback.’ —Laurie Smith
‘This is a collection which deals openly and unsentimentally with bereavements and betrayals, childhood abuses and disappointments, all territory generally understood to be difficult both for poets and readers. Barraclough handles it well... This debut from Simon Barraclough, shortlisted for the 2008 Forward Prize for Best First Collection, demonstrates a poet’s eye for detail and provides a vehicle for a laconic and totally contemporary voice whose dramatic talents could easily move him into theatre and radio as well as poetry.’ —Jane Holland
‘Any poet from Huddersfield must be within earshot of Simon Armitage and there are familiar elements (not least a torrential energy) in Simon Barraclough’s first collection ...
London Whale shows how it should be done, with fluidity, delicacy, and tonal variety ... There are several shorter (often sonnet-length) poems which balance everything successfully ... and ingenious miniatures.
This is very good writing ... a beautifully produced highly readable collection.’ —John Greening
‘['Los Alamos Mon Amour'] simultaneously assaults and seduces the senses with an understated charm ...
If it is Barraclough's broad palette of subject matter that draws the reader in, it is his attention to the craft of poetry that will endure.
Like Simon Armitage, Barraclough grew up in Huddersfield and although in many ways he is a very different writer, there is something about this collection that brings to mind that first rush of excitement brought on by Armitage's early work.’ —Chris Horton