The Paper House
‘Bright with startling sensory details, these are poems in which bodies, buildings and lives stand in for each other; poems of sheds, outbuildings and the paper houses of memory. Karen Dennison’s writing is playful with time, speaking the voices of those who were never given the chance to speak, mining the depths of family and inheritance as well as the brutality of loss. These are moving, wise poems, poems in which the reader becomes ‘a traveller / returning home to find a house familiar / yet strange’. Suzannah Evans
‘“In my hands there are scraps of sky and sea”, writes Karen Dennison in the title poem, as she hands them over to the reader for a look. The Paper House flickers with poems that snatch at your memory. They are an accumulation of sharp snapshots pasted on a sheet to create a whole that is intricate and lingering. Dennison guides you with sensitive mastery through a glass where interiors are wild landscapes, and the sky a misbehaving memory. The journey is well worth it.’ Claire Trevien
Karen Dennison’s first collection, Counting Rain, is a quiet and moving series of poems, in which the most recurrent theme is the loss of childhood, and the way it lodges in the memory. ‘Here’ she writes, ‘are the rooms of our childhood,/ the walls where we wrote our names.’ This is a skilful, perfectly disarming series of pieces, in which disquiet and tension lie just beneath the surface, held there carefully while the writer investigates moments of loss, love, discovery – the whole collection is like a stealthy and imaginative search for the way the past and present impact upon one another. Its timing and its imagery are exceptionally exact: this is a life that we recognise, in which the writer uses her own experience to make us think about our own. It’s wonderful – a genuine journey, trodden and re-trodden, one that’s a privilege to share. Bill Greenwell
Karen Dennison’s poems explore both the vastness of space and the intimacy of what passes between people in the cycle of birth, death, and what happens in between. She has a scientist’s concern for precision, but a poet’s ear for lyric. Her poems are direct and powerfully emotional in their desire to seek a pattern in chaos and to wake the ghosts of memory. An exciting debut. Tamar Yoseloff
Dennison’s poems bristle with disquiet and transformation. Her images leap off the page and look you right in the eye. Helen Ivory
The Memory of Water by Abegail Morley
With her restless and undaunted imagination, Abegail Morley has already given us three of the most original collections of poetry in recent years. Using the metaphor of water as the carrier of the whispers of history, The Memory of Water takes her ever deeper into her own distinctive world.
Inspired by a residency in Scotney Castle in Kent, famous for its Medieval moat, these poems bring vivid life to actual voices of the past – a Catholic priest hiding from Elizabeth’s agents, a smuggler disposing of his victim’s body, another murderer faking his own death by filling his coffin with stones – and counterpoints them with invented characters in a music as fluid as their watery medium.
Karen Dennison’s shape-shifting photographs are a superb accompaniment to these startling and compelling poems. William Bedford