Adventures in poetry
Date: 7th June 2016
Extent: 80 pp
Abegail Morley’s new poetry collection The Skin Diary follows a Forward Prize shortlisted debut, How to Pour Madness into a Teacup. These poems confront loss in its many forms with unwavering and astonishing clarity, yet there's an incandescent thread running through every line that makes each alive with fierce and steely energy.
Here are alert and lyrical poems that hunt out imperfect hiding places, conjure up imaginary sisters and try to contain near-impossible sorrows that spill out of carrier bags and fill up archives. New skins and old disguises are stitched together, the fabric of life tries to hold fast whilst all else unravels and comes apart at the seams. The Skin Diary documents the sometimes fragile and strange windfalls of our days and months; through hard times and thin ice, this journal is bleakly wry, brilliantly focused and brimming with uncanny and discomforting turns of event.
‘In The Skin Diary, potentialities of memory and sensation are nuanced, subtle, and limned in relationship to suffering, betrayal, and loss. Fluidities of image and rhythm create an individual and musical voice to carry the reflections and echoes the poet shivers across the mirroring surfaces and abysses of her ghostly, visceral, and unflinching poems.’ – Penelope Shuttle
‘Abegail Morley’s The Skin Diary is a house haunted by imagined children and a permeating tragedy. Time passes in lost months and tides; slips away grain by grain. In her wanderings, the narrator yearns for a child and laments the lover lost to an empty sky. He is in every creak of the stairs and peers between branches at the bottom of the garden. Heartbreak is carried around in supermarket carrier bags: ‘first Waitrose, then Aldi’. The Skin Diary somehow finds words for the ineffable in its search for hope and understanding.’
– Martin Figura
‘Morley’s tight poems unlock the prescient pain of childhood that reflects later on in loss; when she writes ‘some pain/ is more intense than others’ there is sense that our pain can be limitless, but this collection seems to compartmentalise and analyse our human limitless capacity for pain and also our human limitations, with an emotional erudition that lifts even the banal into the realms of concatenating and complex subjective psychoanalysis. A life can be held within the construct of one person’s poetic contribution, and here is a poet who can hold her nerve and her entire psychological landscape within each multifariously conceived and consciously humane line.’ – Melissa Lee-Houghton
‘Like the sea after depth charges detonate, Abegail Morley’s poems churn with remnants and signifiers. She rounds again and again on meaning, coming at it from all angles, to wrest meaning from the quotidian. Morley’s art is self-sacrificial and wholly generous. The imaginary is carefully harnessed. The ‘nearly’ and ‘almost’ become solid and historical. ‘Could-bes’ tower across her landscapes, rightfully statuesque, cloud giants. This careful lexicon Morley offers us here is nothing but essential.’ – Graham Clifford
Abegail Morley’s debut collection, How to Pour Madness into a Teacup (Cinnamon) was shortlisted for the Forward Prize Best First Collection. Her collections, Snow Child and an ekphrastic collection based on the work of the German satirical painter, George Grosz, Eva and George: Sketches in Pen and Brush are published by Pindrop Press. She collaborated with artist Karen Dennison on The Memory of Water (Indigo Dreams Publishing) based on a residency at Scotney Castle. She was Canterbury Festival Poet of the Year 2015 and Poet in Residence at Riverhill Himalayan Gardens, Kent 2015-2016. Abegail is a co-founder of EKPHRASIS commissioning poets for ekphrasitc events, most recently at The Royal Academy of Arts and the British Library. Her website is The Poetry Shed.