Friday, January 11, 2013

The Departure ~ Chris Emery

This, being my first poetry related post of 2013, I thought I’d aim high and start with an individual who’s not just a great poet, but also happens to be a director of Salt, an independent publisher of a wide range of genres: from literary biography and memoir, to plays, theatre studies, literary studies, cultural and landscape studies, companions, monographs and writer’s guides, as well as a core publishing activity in literary fiction, short stories and poetry. Salt has won numerous awards and in 2012 had one of their writers shortlisted for the Man Booker prize with Alison Moore’s The Lighthouse . As I said, aiming high.

Whilst I’m aiming high I’m going to steal a quote by another fabulous poet, as my link into this book. George Szirtes, states on the back cover that the poems in this collection:

are like highly compressed short stories that we enter at high speed. Once in, the place is full of vivid detail keeping our head turning.”


I’ve taken this to mean that Chris Emery drops you right into his poems/world, and once in you have very little chance to orientate yourself before being assaulted by the next image or poem; voices and fragments of lives hurtle past you leaving behind ghosts on the retina, neurons fired and blipping beyond the moment. Again taking Szirtes idea of “compressed stories” I recently wrote a post on a microfiction collection, and stated that I wasn’t sure where the difference between prose poetry and microfiction lie and that “like prose poetry, microfiction appears to be loose, possibly random paragraphs and to use everyday language, although it is heightened, making every word placed - placed with a specific purpose - as if it were a puzzle & could have only been placed there, would only fit there.” , this description seems to fit Chris’s poetry and even though he’s far to adventurous to remain in one form when he could be exploring Sonnets, Couplets, Haiku’s or free verse, I think the description an apt one.

On leaving Wale Obelisk (for Jen).

Did we shuck our suits that leaf-dense noon?
Leave serious careers in lemon light,
the high clouds, early swallows, the day moon
weakened, nothing farmed, nothing tight

above the summer marriage of grasses,
and all that luscious time receding in
the corporate years’ climbing excesses,
just a vacancy before the children?

We made a kind of love pledge there. It leaves you
in chromatic episodes like this
doesn’t it? Not quite nostalgia but who
could have imagined ageing like this?

We had climbed up to lie on the piled hay,
the tow-coloured earth all nice and neat,
what with everything that’s come our way
we’re still breathing in that smashed-up wheat

On researching for this post, I read that this poet’s work is characterised by a dystopian vision of the world, having read only this and Dr Mephisto, I can say there is an element of that, but if Chris paints the world as a dystopian, he paints it with a humour that cuts giant swathes through the darkness, highlighting the dissonance in modern living and with a language that makes me smile, makes me laugh, then makes me want to read again.


I like your plainness in the gravel, tucked sideways
in the manky cracks you look like a dishcloth
flattened in those corners where the pointing has come out.

You don’t resist, but still endure along the sagging rec.
You’re often sat next to a dog turd with lots of beetles caring.
Everything is forlorn in your colourless zone.

Take all those small relinquishments at your unnoticed day rate.
Suddenly you are there, reminding us of seeping middle age,
going to seed in some midsummer miners’ estate

with no friends or music. Perhaps you are this militant scum?
The bits we don’t need beneath the sun,
somehow wielding a fantastic ordinary face.

You never go away. When I spot you being flagrant
I am usually emerging from a colossal boredom into
buoyant ideas of the extraneous. You are meant to be

the perfect emblem of the wasted. Your gift is
being extra. When you brighten at dusk,
spotting the panicking social scrub

under eight floors of life tapestry,
we hear your prayers: ‘Given up but still here’ and
‘You get up, you get on with it’, which is nearly likely really.

Chris Emery aka Chris Hamilton-Emery born in Manchester, England, on November 23, 1963 is a British poet and literary publisher.  He is also the author of a writers’ guide on publishing and marketing poetry, 101 Ways to Make Poems SellA first full-length poetry collection, Dr. Mephisto, was published by Arc in 2002. He has travelled to perform his work in the USA and Australia. His last full collection of poetry, Radio Nostalgia, was published by Arc Publications in 2006. He was anthologised in Identity Parade: New British & Irish Poets(Bloodaxe 2010), edited by Roddy Lumsden. Emery is a contributor to The Cambridge Companion to Creative Writing, edited by David Morley and Philip Neilsen . Working as Chris Hamilton-Emery, he is a Director of Salt Publishing an independent literary press. He was awarded an American Book Award in 2006  for his services to American literature. Hamilton-Emery has sat on the Boards of the Independent Publishers Guild and Planet Poetry, and occasionally works as a consultant in the publishing industry in the United Kingdom. He lives in Cromer with his wife and children.

Chris Emery .Com

Salt Publishing

Sample of The Departure (Pdf) 

Sample of Dr. Mephisto (Pdf)



Brian Joseph said...

A poet who works with dystopian themes sounds both interesting as well as innovative.

I really like On leaving Wale Obelisk (for Jen). It touches upon things that I can relate to.

Tom Cunliffe said...

Lots of interesting information here and a very interesting post. Reading poetry apparently boosts brain activity so I read yesterday - see

@parridhlantern said...

Hi Brian, this collection & Dr Mephisto are both worth checking out & I believe the poem you mentioned was for his wife.

Hi Tom Thanks for that information I'll be going around quoting it to all & sundry & with a less than subtle reference to myself. Ps Have purchased a Nexus.