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A Life, Elsewhere
by Marie Naughton
£10 (pub. 2018)

* winner of the Rubery Book Award (Poetry) 2021 and longlisted for the Welsh Poetry Book Awards 2020*

Marie Naughton is an astute and eclectic storyteller: her poems put us inside the head of astrophysicist Jocelyn Bell Burnell whose discovery of radio pulsars in the 60s translated as a Nobel Prize in Physics for her male supervisor; of high-wire artist Philippe Petit as he takes his first step on a line between the Twin Towers; and a lad whose tragic end hinges on a split-second decision in his morning journey to work. Suffragette Emmeline Pankhurst nestles next to the sister who chooses to devote her life to the church and the nun who compares sex with condoms to playing a piano wearing boxing gloves. These are funny, tender, sometimes devastating stories from a shining new poetic voice.

Praise for A Life, Elsewhere:

“Marie Naughton has a gift for setting family stories at an angle, an angle which registers the odd, unreconciled power of particular moments to change lives: looming historical tragedies to do with war, or emigration, or class and gender, suddenly come into focus throughout this fluent, confident debut. And things seem to come alive as she describes them, a brain which is ‘Cauliflower floret, sliced. Rows of winter poplars’, spurge which is ‘unnatural green / like Night Nurse’ and whose ‘milky sap / spurts from the smallest cut’, a rhinoceros whose ‘legs are like rooks turned upside down’; in ‘On Knitting’, she reflects on her own art when wool unravels into lines as well-tempered and emphatic as these: ‘Crinkles smooth as the temperature drops. / Give yourself distance – a week or so – / then lift the skeins from the darkness / of the wicker basket. This is your new project.’”

John McAuliffe

“This warm collection, often funny and wry, teems with nostalgia and a sense of the road not taken. The poems manage to be simultaneously full-bodied and delicate, and the voice of the poet, entirely her own.”

Hannah Lowe

Children At Your Feet

Making love with Durex is like playing the piano
in boxing gloves
, said Sister Oliver
in a sixth form talk on birth control and morality.
Madame Foxcroft took maternity leave,
Sister Oliver filled in.
She read us French poetry:
Raymond Queneau – Si tu t’imagines.
Carpe diem is the gist of it
, Sister Oliver declared.
Gather ye rosebuds, she added
to our blank stares. Girls whispered

she was the daughter of an earl. Finishing school,
Oxford, a sports car on her twenty-first.
In Paris she received the call
from God in Notre Dame. After that,
we were nervous in chapel. She left
before the exams.
One dull weekend my best friend
pulled her dad’s old boxing gloves down
from the attic. Hysterical, we punched out
Lady Madonna on the baby grand.

(from A Life, Elsewhere)

A Life, Elsewhere

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