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Hotel Anonymous
by Mike Barlow
£10 (pub. 2021)

The poems in Hotel Anonymous are about lives we don’t lead as much as those we do, the enigma of one life as opposed to another. They explore a sense of being other, of life as if someone else has lived it, rubbing up against the unsettling and porous boundary between imagination and memory, fiction and fact, between ‘the waltz of the blood, the self-deceiving heart’ (‘The dead of night’). Mike Barlow, previous winner of the National Poetry Competition and author of three prior poetry collections and several pamphlets, is established as one of Britain’s most gifted poets writing today. His latest oeuvre does not disappoint.

Mike reading from Hotel Anonymous.

Praise for Hotel Anonymous:

"A new collection from Mike Barlow and you know it’ll be good. I think I would recognise that voice anywhere, the deep seriousness lightened here and there by wry humour, that exactly right image, the inspired word choice that keeps the poems always surprising and fresh. An unmistakable taste of the poet’s home county, Lancashire, its landscapes and its characters but also there are tender love poems which moved me. There is even (‘Building a Church with Maddy and Lewis’) the best poem ever written about Lego! Just wonderful."

Carole Bromley


'In Mike Barlow's wonderful new collection,we're never more than a few lines away from one of his characteristically precise and memorable observations.  ‘Whichever life we live’, 'The painter in the barn' concludes, ‘it's the other calls’; and John Coltrane's 'breath', as 'Tonight' has it, 'is eight bars of what no one else can tell me.'  But even more impressive for me is how deftly and satisfyingly the poems as wholes give such imaginative and original expression to the unsettling questions about identity, subjectivity and mortality with which we share our daily lives.' 

Nick Everett

On the run


Driving down a small suburban street
somewhere in the heart, I begin, as I often do,
to imagine a different life, furnished
otherwise than mine, an unexpected shade
of wallpaper perhaps, Spode and crystal
on the mantelpiece, the aroma from the kitchen
homely yet not quite familiar, the settee, hostile
with antimacassars, inviting nonetheless.

So I pull up outside a white pebbledash semi,
ring the bell chime. A man my age but older
opens the door. I can tell he’s ready.
He takes my car keys, stands aside to let me in
and walks out. A voice from the back asks
who it is. Just some crazy, I say,
as she comes through with coffee and biscuits
and we sit down together on the settee.

And yes, I have the right house, for there are
the antimacassars, and a coffee cup with a pattern
exactly like my mother’s second cousin’s.
She switches on the tele and we watch daytime.
Something inside me lets go and floats away
as we follow a quiz show. I know the answers
before the questions and think to myself
if I were on the run they’d never find me.


(from Hotel Anonymous)



Hotel Anonymous

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