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Rope Of Sand
by Fiona Larkin
£10 (pub. 2023)

In a compelling, nuanced debut, Fiona Larkin scrutinises instability and asks what we hold onto, and what we let go. Her poems, delicate and tough, consider the shifting relationships in couples, between parent and child, how a friendship is formed and broken. She searches for those languages and registers we remember, and how we might lose them, and the place of the spiritual when faith, like the tide, recedes. Sand is always equivocal, unreliable, offering “the beach, born again” even though “saltwater/erases all my/shell cathedrals.” Marine snow “fragments into residue, falls / into granular memory,” and the self is “unleashed” as skin-cells in motes of dust. Rope of Sand, in its subtle lyricism and formal accomplishment, finds a consolatory beauty in transience.

Praise for Rope of Sand:

“In Fiona Larkin’s poetry, a living world emerges through a playful lexicon of incarnation, the body’s innate fragility and strength. Love and lyric intensity combine at a cellular level, in the inbreath and outbreath of language and, although there is the ever-present temptation of transcendence, Larkin roots her awareness in the mud and the murk of everyday experience. This is a collection that does not shy from pain or complexity, but knows that love is the rope that binds us to ourselves, to others, and to the more-than-human world.”

Samuel Tongue


“In this lyrical, surprising and sharply intimate debut, Fiona Larkin reaches beyond the everyday through poems ‘tempted / by transcendence’. From dust mites to the alveoli of the lungs and their ‘tiny blooms’, the corporeal and numinous meet as boundaries are breached and transformed. Breath lies at the heart of the collection – from the ravages of TB and its cultural and social connotations to more spiritual concerns. This book is a fierce and graceful hymn to life, its ‘chorus / of sting and sweet’.”

Sarah Westcott


Rope of Sand is a subtle, scrupulous book, in which ‘each living creature’s origin/is demarcated’. Larkin’s poems operate as circuit-breakers, after a fashion, refreshing and renewing language and casting an ‘uncovering light’ on the intimate and the public alike. These are poems ‘torn between logic and hope’, polished and resonant, measured on the breath and giving voice to the ‘almost unspeakable’.”

Declan Ryan


“Fiona Larkin’s poems are unflappable and unfaltering in their virtuosoship and vitality. Each poem is a delicate embodiment of determination, dislocation and desire for what is beyond our grasp. Equally the poems question what home might be, ‘what a vertical line in clear dawn air’ exposes, or how we form meanings of the world as expressed in the opening poem of the collection ‘Form it from loosestrife, form it remorselessly’. I am left feeling breathless and breathing, haunted by Larkin’s deft, tender and moving language.”

Agnieszka Studzińska

What Snow Invokes

Snow becomes


as we fell, a brief
and tactile magic. Magnify each
to satisfy our lack:

we desire detail.

Keen enough
to count every flake,
let us remake that winter night
and scroll through its sequence endlessly
until what’s frozen burns us.

(from Rope of Sand)

Objects for Private Devotion

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