Seahouses is the first collection of poetry from cultural historian Richard Barnett. Those familiar with Barnett’s non-fiction – recently described as ‘superbly erudite and lucid’ by Will Self – will be unsurprised to discover he is also a formidable poet, with a distinctly English approach that is at once fluid, precise, cynical and tender.
Not a single word in this volume is wasted; least of all in the award-winning title sequence, where the sea sifts and rolls through the dreams of an old man asleep in a deckchair, conjuring a vision of history and our human crossings. Elsewhere, fragments of first love are glimpsed, pursued, and interrogated; fathers sit down to eat with the sons they have killed; two textbooks sing three songs of suppressed longing; bees are kept for all the wrong reasons; nothing jinks or swithers.
This is low modernism of the highest order, cranky, eloquent and broken-hearted – a terrific addition to the UK’s poetry landscape.
‘Richard Barnett’s landscapes are never what they seem, shining with a glassy, supernatural clarity. Seahouses is a map to a world where ‘paths are ghosts’, things are ‘felt not heard’ and even the river offers ‘variations of water’. This is an accomplished and haunting debut. Barnett’s poems will unnerve and renew you’ – Helen Mort
‘There are only nineteen poems [in Seahouses], but each is possibly a novel in its own right in terms of its depth and feeling … Unnerving, disturbing and utterly brilliant’ – Quarterday Review
‘To read Richard Barnett’s poems is to find yourself in the haunted space between water and land, the living and the disappeared, the written and the unspoken word. Seahouses is a collection of paths leading you to such borderlands, each poem beckoning you to ‘come with me. Everybody comes with me, eventually’’ – Malene Engelund
‘Unafraid to tackle the shifting territories of love and loss, Seahouses is bound with a palpable sense of human and natural history. This is an assured and remarkable first collection that heralds an exciting talent’ – Sarah Westcott
You can read more, and buy a copy of Seahouses, on the Valley Press website. We launched Seahouses at Blackwell’s Holborn in May, and I read from the collection at the Inpress Books Poetry Pavilion in the London Book Fair in April, and the Poetry Book Fair in September.I’ll be exploring the poetry of the dead body with Kass Boucher as part of ‘Death, Art and Anatomy’ at the University of Winchester on Fri 3 June.
The title sequence received the 2006 Promis Prize for poetry, and the collection was shortlisted in the 2013 Poetry Business competition, judged by Simon Armitage. 3:AM Magazine published ‘Lingo’, a prose poem from Seahouses, in November 2014, and a couple of poems from the collection appeared in the first issue of Funhouse magazine. Quarterday Review gave Seahouses a glowing five-star review in their Samhain edition. East Leeds FM broadcast a recording of me reading three poems from the collection, which you can also hear by clicking on the media player below.