Velvel's Violin is a Poetry Book Society Recommendation
Publication date: 6th July 2023
Format: Paperback / eBook
DCF: Poetry Collections
Cover artwork: Marc Chagall (The blue violinist / Le violoniste bleu, 1947)
Velvel’s Violin, a deeply moving and political fifth collection by TS Eliot Prize-shortlisted poet Jacqueline Saphra places us on the shifting ground between past and present. Through its search for missing histories of the Jewish diaspora, the book is a call for empathy and a warning to a world where the legacy of the Holocaust echoes current narratives of prejudice, war, displacement, and migration.
Saphra’s precisely-tuned writing ranges through tones of dark humour, lyrical beauty and moments of transcendent joy to find assonance between the turbulence of now and a family history of fragmented stories, irreparable loss and miraculous escapes. Between each poem - forgotten songs, weeping forests, buried violins - sound and silence combine to speak of love, absence and survival.
Praise for Velvel's Violin:
'Velvel's Violin is a book about faith and its complexities – how we are faithful, and to whom. It is about the strong and sometimes terrible legacies of the past that we continue to carry with us, and only a poet as brave as Jacqueline Saphra can give us such a clear and unflinching view. It was Adorno who said, ‘there can be no poetry after Auschwitz’, but Saphra understands that there must be poetry, otherwise there is no way of reconciling history with the way we live now, who and how we love. Ultimately, it is a book about love, and devotion, in its many guises.' – Tamar Yoseloff
‘Jacqueline Saphra’s new collection is a courageous act of resistance, of naming, opening and questioning. Velvel’s Violin explores what it means to be a British Jew at this particular point in history, to live with the spectre of the holocaust, to doubt and reject one’s faith or tribe – while recognising this self-same doubt as an essential part of Judaism’s particular philosophy. ‘I never know where I am / I know only whom I love’ Saphra tells us. This vital, unforgettable book speaks to a homeland that exists not in sand and soil but in soup and song, in strange edges and broken tongue, in atheists’ prayers, in journey, in love. I am grateful to have read it.’ – Amy Acre
'Velvel’s Violin fits this political moment of rising antisemitism and ahistoricity. It advocates for a fully-lived version of identity which turns nothing away from the door. Poems as theatre, activism and ironic deconstruction buttress the book’s more lyrical explorations of memory and history to create a beautiful, sustained work of art.’ - Sasha Dugdale
Jacqueline Saphra is a poet, playwright, teacher and activist. She is the author of nine plays, five chapbooks and five poetry collections. The Kitchen of Lovely Contraptions (flipped eye) was shortlisted for the Aldeburgh First Collection Prize and If I Lay on my Back I Saw Nothing But Naked Women (The Emma Press) won Best Collaborative Work at The Sabotage Awards. Recent collections from Nine Arches Press are All My Mad Mothers (shortlisted for the T.S. Eliot Prize), Dad, Remember You are Dead and One Hundred Lockdown Sonnets. Jacqueline is a founder member of Poets for the Planet and teaches at The Poetry School. Her latest collection, Velvel's Violin (Nine Arches Press, 2023) is a Poetry Book Society Recommendation.