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.
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
“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
“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
Richard Barnett is a writer, teacher and broadcaster on the cultural history of science and medicine. His publications in this field include The Sick Rose: Disease and the Art of Medical Illustration (Thames & Hudson, 2014).
He has taught at the universities of Cambridge and London, and in 2011 received one of the first Wellcome Trust Engagement Fellowships. He received the 2006 Promis Prize for poetry, and was shortlisted for the 2013 Poetry Business Pamphlet Awards, both for earlier versions of his first collection Seahouses, which was published by Valley Press in March 2015. Richard was first published by Valley Press in 2013, with two of his poems appearing in the anthology Pocket Horizon.
Date Published: 2015-03-06
Catalogue Number: VP0071
Number of Pages: 52
Cover design by Jamie McGarry
Cover photograph by the author
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