Date: 14th May 2020
Extent: 80 pp
Cover artwork: Angela Dufresne
This remarkable debut collection from Geraldine Clarkson is an exploration of enclosure and freedom, of what is life-affirming and what is life-suppressing, of emptiness and profusion, of silence and music, and of the impermanence and wonder of the flesh. These poems contain the uncontainable; spellbound and courageous, they roam from South American monasteries to the shorelines of memory and the truth-towers of the self, surveying matters of faith, being, tragedy, and womanhood.
Clarkson is a formally audacious poet of astonishing vision; her writing always richly riotous with detail, possessing the singular ability to move from the maelstrom of feeling to the stilled moment with an assured, quick elegance. Be led in the dance that these dreamlike and deft poems lead, allow their music to lift and move you out of the body and out of time, to somewhere quite extraordinary.
Praise for Geraldine Clarkson and Monica's Overcoat of Flesh:
‘A highly inventive, high energy poet who writes poems that are always vividly phrased and technically accomplished. Geraldine Clarkson is one of those rare things, a genuinely exciting new poet.’ – Daljit Nagra
‘Geraldine Clarkson's poems are musical, often playful incantations that delight in the power of words. Formally inventive and vivid with natural imagery.’ - Carol Ann Duffy
'Geraldine Clarkson is—quietly, attentively, humbly—writing some of the best poems of our time.' – Kathryn Maris
'What do we ask of poets? A fluid tongue, a gift for mythmaking, an ear for music and story in equal measure, a trust that her readers want all she has to give. What Geraldine Clarkson has to give in Monica’s Overcoat of Flesh is nothing less than the natural world made hypernatural, lush, acute, teeming, peopled with mothers, fathers, daughters, nuns, super-heroine saints, fantastic hybrid beings (cow of love, sea-scribbler, birds of clay), crowded with objects that serenade and threaten at the same time. The speaker of these poems is endlessly morphable and endlessly verbal; she can say anything and beguile us into listening: put our screens down and really listen and come to life again in the garden of her diction, her memory, her weird unassailable vision.' – Kathleen Ossip
'I felt dizzy after reading these poems for the first time and it’s hard to know where to begin in terms of providing a summary of their virtues. There’s a cornucopic range of reference—marine ecology, radioactivity, nursery rhymes, D.H. Lawrence, Vapona fly-killer, multiple engagements with aspects of Catholicism—that testifies in the most exhilarating way to Clarkson’s acute observational eye, polymathic engagement with the external world and highly refined sensibility . Although many poems seem to arise in biography, they transcend the merely personal via an address to wider themes, including issues of selfhood, becoming and meaning. The language is sensual, vivid and lexically virtuosic, alert and animated to the extent that some poems seem to develop their own lives, like weird little animals or microcosmic solar systems. Ferociously alert and intelligent, playful, witty, profound and funny, Monica’s Overcoat of Flesh is a brilliant book—it dazzles.' - Steve Ely
'Clarkson has created a mythopoetics of excess which encompasses family drama, Catholicism, and fearless Angela Carter-style fantasies. She is engaged on a visionary project which embodies Rimbaud’s ‘boundless and systematized disorganization of all the senses’. Monica’s Overcoat of Flesh also proves her to be one of the finest contemporary practitioners of the prose poem. A mind-rattling, heart-shaking debut.' – A.B. Jackson
'Monica’s Overcoat of Flesh is spiritual glitter for the secular reader. The soul is a kaleidoscopic thing in Geraldine Clarkson’s collection, such an intensely descriptive poetry that each line also lights up (Monica’s) human flesh. Though Clarkson is of our time and not a poet to proselytize or even espouse a belief system on the page, post-Hopkins she is the poet of choice. Wake up here, reader: being numinous is the jazz of this world.' – Claire Crowther
Geraldine Clarkson lives in Warwickshire and is the author of three poetry pamphlets, including a Laureate’s Choice and a Poetry Book Society Pamphlet choice. She has won the Poetry London and Ambit competitions, as well as the Magma Editors’ and Anne Born prizes, and has been commended in the National Poetry, Arvon, and Mslexia competitions. Her poems have been published widely in U.K. journals (including The Poetry Review, The Rialto, POEM, The North, Tears in the Fence, and Shearsman magazine), and anthologies, and have also appeared in the U.S. in Poetry magazine. She has taught refugees and migrants, and worked in offices, libraries, and care homes. Her writing is influenced by her Irish roots and a formative period spent in a silent monastic order, including several years in South America.
In 2015, The Poetry School and Nine Arches Press launched a nationwide scheme to find exciting new voices in poetry with Kathryn Maris as selecting editor. After reading through hundreds of entries, and narrowing down the choices from longlist to shortlist, four poets emerged as the clear winners: Geraldine Clarkson, Lucy Ingrams, Maureen Cullen and Katie Griffiths.
The Nine Arches Press blog features poems from many of our poets, as well as interviews and articles.