Shortlisted for the EDP-Jarrold East Anglian Book Awards
At the centre of Emery’s third collection are a series of narrative poems that reveal an astonishing range of personas, from the set of Mission Impossible, an extra from Gojira, porn stars, bombers and executioners — even Charles Bukowski turns up to take a leak. There are Pennine journeys, war zones, the Norfolk coast, the Suffolk coast, riots, bad hotel rooms and crazy conventions. Even the secret life of peas. Interspersed among all these are poems concerning the mysterious ‘M’.
‘In his aptly-named new collection, Chris Emery shows he still has the talent to surprise us with a perfectly-managed change of direction and range, showing (in the words of one of his poems) a new "fantastic ordinary face". A fresh accessibility is achieved with a richness of striking and imaginative language that will impress his existing readership, and reward the new one this book is certain to attract. There is plenty of humour here alongside genuine political commitment, a lot of real human feeling between its sharp satirical edges, kissing as well as broken teeth. Anybody interested in the contemporary poetry of these islands will have to read this book.’ —Ian Duhig
‘The poems in The Departure possess (and are possessed by) such intent, detailed, living brilliance, it is like reading a series of captivating novels compressed to their musical essence.’ —David Morley
‘Chris Emery's poems are like highly compressed short stories that we enter at high speed. Once in, the place is full of vivid detail keeping our head turning. A good deal of the world is there with all its proper names, staring back at us as if it desired calm but knew things were on the move. Sometimes surreal, sometimes baroque, at other times darkly playful, the world is as in ‘Snails’ “Tonight we will pile them, pile everything of them / into the whorl of a bucket and then we will fill it / to the top with forest tears and let the silence do its work.”’ —George Szirtes
‘There's an immediacy and something familiar in the way the poems of Chris Emery's new collection address the reader. They impel us to engage, to join the moment, the experience, the thought, and to consider what’s being prised open or experienced. The ease with which he develops irony and yet is freshly lyrical is almost reassuring. This is a very sophisticated and controlled poetry, language rich, but also surprising and at times gloriously tangential. What matters most is that it urges us to confide, to share – written because it has to come out, but also because we might like to listen. Emotions work with sensations and retain the intelligence that has so characterised Emery’s earlier writing. Who are we, where am I, how do we all relate to a wider world with its still and frantic moments? This book expands horizons, acerbic and poignant, constrained and ecstatic at once.’ —John Kinsella
‘The narrative poems are like snapshots of longer stories, like watching ten minutes of a film – you want to know more. The ‘location poems’ feature such vivid imagery, so real that you’re right there – “a charcoal pushbike leaning on the door’s black velour”. Emery shows no sticking rigidly to poetic form, taking the theme of departures around a tour of haiku, sonnets, couplets, free verse. It’s all here. The words are working hard – “the day moon is a wok”, “the sea’s womb bursts” – painting a vivid picture in your mind’s eye. The breadth of this collection is tremendous, but my absolute favourite is the title poem ‘The Departure’, about leaving yourself and diving into your art.’ —Michelle Teasdale
‘These words matter: these contexts, these agonised, pained, joyous, hilarious worlds.’ —Catherine Edmunds
‘There are moments of great lucidity and philosophical insight in Emery’s poetry, and a vocabulary born from experience that doesn’t cry pretentious. There is grit, but not for its own sake, and a clean intelligence lies beneath “the dirt the dirt the dirt” of The Bukowskis that makes way for the brave political admonitions (‘The Destroyers Convention’ and ‘Guest Starring’). It is also nice to see a dialogue poem in the form of ‘Carl’s Job’; these are rare and, to me, pave a way forward in poetry. Emery’s excellent execution of this form delivers a haunting exchange of movie-talk, and shows the range of his literary prowess:“‘I’ve no further plans on killing’ I said. ‘Those days are done.’ / ‘Let me tell you, Bud,’ said Carl. ‘Those days are sitting here now.’”’ —Philippe Blenkiron
‘Chris Emery’s ‘Departures’ has affinities with those of John Hartley-Williams. A single poem can pile up seemingly unrelated images with an impact derived not from an understanding of the poem’s logical surface connections, what the seventeenth century described as wit, but from the connections that Emery’s images make with our emotions. A lazy reaction would be to lump him with the more overt surrealist procedures of Hartley—Williams, but I would prefer to describe his imagery sensually associative akin to the work of Elytis or Pablo Neruda.’ —James Sutherland-Smith
‘A collection where linguistic invention and imagination combine in poems with a dazzling range of feeling never less than a true entertainment.’ —James Sutherland-Smith
‘Studded with richly strange images and ideas, the poems, like the church bells which 'invert the town', in 'Sunday Fathers', are often skewed and unsettling: hat stands, 'wrists of ice'; snails, 'death's pale eccentrics'.’ —Ellen Cranitch
‘Most of Emery’s poems share an immediacy, a measured brashness, but there is nothing especially uniform about this collection: there is a ‘cowboy song’, a poem dedicated to a Victorian hangman, a visit to the frontline of a warzone, each poem shining a different kind of light on a different world of hope, or pain, or calm, or irony, or fortitude, or beauty.’ —Rory Waterman
‘Chris Emery drops you right into his poems/world, and once in you have very little chance to orientate yourself before being assaulted by the next image or poem; voices and fragments of lives hurtle past you leaving behind ghosts on the retina, neurons fired and blipping beyond the moment.’ —The Parrish Lantern
‘The poems made me feel and put images in my head, but I never understood why I felt that way, or how these quicksilver pictures fitted into the narratives. There is something about the quality of the images ('Snails' silently drowned in "forest tears" and awkward 'Sunday Fathers' "wasting time by the swings") and of the atmospheres conjured up (for me the book as a whole has a feeling of carparks and gritty sodium lights, isn't that odd!) that tells me I should trust Chris Emery and that there are more treasures to be found.’ —Clare Law’s Blog
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