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Derrida's Monkey
by Nell Farrell
£10 (pub. 2018)

This debut collection is a fluent and confident journey through the most unlikely yet engaging of characters. We meet reckless nuns, a made-up dead husband, mermaids with their own speech therapist and social worker, French soldiers learning English, Captain Scott on the occasion of his birthday dinner, and we are seduced by poems in a dazzling array of voices – among them a retired wildlife photographer, Mary Queen of Scots, a pet orangutan and the beleaguered princess from Hans Christian Anderson’s 'The Wild Swan's. Nell Farrell has already proved herself with three highly regarded pamphlets to her name. This collection seals her reputation as a poet who is going places.

Praise for Derrida's Monkey:

“Nell Farrell’s Derrida’s Monkey is a sharp, witty, and at times surreal collection, whether addressing works of art, mythology or literary figures. An outstanding set of poems about wayward teenage mermaids is a centrepiece to the collection but all the book’s poems are acutely observed, rich in texture and warm with empathy. These poems create an effortless intimacy with their subjects and often the reader can feel like they’re eavesdropping and overhearing something not quite meant for their ears. Nell Farrell’s use of voices is enchanting and intrigu- ing – this is a book that speaks in many tongues.”

Suzannah Evans

“Thank goodness for Nell Farrell. A skilled and generous poet, she draws us into a vivid world where humans blunder about, tripping over obstacles of our own making. Hope and wonderment appear in unlikely places. Tigers, dead mice, birds, orangutans and wolves hint at different and refreshing ways to en- gage with the world, and always with compassion and wry humour. The surreal never slides into whimsy, and the otherworldly is firmly rooted in the magic of the everyday. Here, mermaids are bracingly unpredictable, free of sanitised cuteness. Strong and tender, these poems reverberate in the mind long after reading. A wonderful debut collection that leaves the reader ‘dizzy, full of belief / in something beyond taming’.”

Rosie Garland

Mourning Elvis

The news drops on our heads
like Pentecostal tongues of flame
from radio speakers perched on girders
high above the heating pipes.

It floats around us as we fold the blankets, dancing,
billow them in polythene, heat-seal them,
send them to the shop. Coats and trousers
rattle clean, steam spurts and hisses,

trolleys scrape along the concrete floors.
We’re dizzy from the solvent fumes. Posh Kath
from the office cries into her break-time tea.
It’s not my kind of music. Marie with her wild girl hair,

her sweet and trusting husband,
invites me after work and draws the curtains.
In the still-light afternoon we hurl our arms and legs
to Alex Harvey’s Faith Healer, louder and louder.

But I can see this news has put them
underwater. The air is stunned.
Women rhyme away their heartbreak,
counting up how many summers have gone by.

Tales reach me later of what happens next.
By Christmas Joan and June and Helen
leave their husbands and are mourning Elvis
in the arms of eighteen year-old boys.

I imagine a humming, a jiving in their blood:
one of them, maybe June,
gorgeous, loud and mini-skirted at forty,
or quiet Helen, being first to think Why not?

And then the others, not copying exactly,
just the way a fashion starts,
the way you want one too,
the way some songs go straight to number one.

(from Derrida's Monkey)

Derrida's Monkey

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