Publication date: 21st September 2023
Format: Paperback / eBook
‘I can’t face the big stuff so I comb the moors for a tiny yellow flower’ – so begins Tormentil, the second poetry collection by Ian Humphreys. Set largely in the starkly beautiful West Yorkshire moorlands, these poems creep and bloom across geographies and time. Isolated by grief in the first months of the pandemic, Humphreys goes in search of hope and blessings among the burnt heather, tumbledown mills and canal locks near his home in the Calder Valley. He unearths a landscape of wildflowers and wildlife, a soundscape of rain and birdsong, at once healing, threatening and under threat.
These are richly textured poems of living and resisting, anchored by connections to family, food, community – and an acknowledgement of the precarious root-holds of hard-won freedoms. A soaring, defiant hymn to recovery, this vital book contemplates migration, otherness, and all the internal and external elements that bind us, make us unique.
Praise for Tormentil
‘Like the tormentil flowers of the title, poems of mourning and bright remembrance weave through this rich and wide-ranging collection. The backdrop to these elegies are the moors and valleys surrounding Ian Humphreys’ home in the Pennines. Landscapes are captured with tenderness, a walker’s perceptiveness, and moments of intense and vivid lyricism. But at the heart of the book are the perspectives and intricate histories of people usually regarded as ‘outsiders’ in 20th and 21st century Britain. Powerfully, refreshingly, and often movingly, these poems chronicle intersecting themes of queer, mixed-heritage, and Hong Kong-immigrant experience. There is a keen awareness of power and injustice here, and a lightness of touch, and the author’s capacity for well-timed humour and surreality in the collection as a whole, make it a compelling read.’- Carola Luther
‘These poems range wide in their explorations – from the landscape to homophobia, to the complexities of racism and the all-encompassing magnitude of grief. Solace is found in nature - from the ‘silent concertina’ of an earthworm that may ‘swallow pain’ to the tiny tormentil flower as a symbol of hope, which reappears throughout. This is a moving and powerful collection that will be read and re-read for years to come.’ - Kim Moore
‘A golden thread runs through this book – joining grief to happiness, the small to the vast, the ground to the sky.’ - Zaffar Kunial
Ian Humphreys’ debut poetry collection Zebra (Nine Arches Press) was nominated for the Portico Prize. His second collection,Tormentil won a Royal Society of Literature ‘Literature Matters’ Award while in progress. He is the editor of Why I Write Poetry and the producer and co-editor of After Sylvia: Poems and Essays in Celebration of Sylvia Plath, both published by Nine Arches Press. In 2023, Ian was appointed Writer in Residence at the Brontë Parsonage Museum. He is widely published in journals and anthologies, and has written for the BBC. Ian is a fellow of The Complete Works.
Photograph credit: Sarah Turton