James Nash was born in London in 1949, and has been a resident of Leeds since 1971. He is a well-known provider of creative writing workshops in schools, universities and the community, and is regularly called on as a host of literary events.
James' first publication with Valley Press was the Kindle-exclusive A Bit of an Ice Breaker: Selected and Uncollected Poems, which collected the best of his writing prior to the 'sonnet era' – so called as, since 2009, James has written almost exclusively in the sonnet form. These were first collected in October 2012 with the release of Some Things Matter: 63 Sonnets, one of the best-selling and most loved VP titles from our first decade of publishing. A second edition in 2014 added a handful of new sonnets, first heard on BBC Radio 3.
James' next publication was Cinema Stories, a collaboration with fellow Leeds-based poet Matthew Hedley Stoppard. Launched at the Leeds International Film Festival in November 2015, this collection celebrated the cinematic heritage of Leeds, and the experience of cinema-going in general. 2018 saw the arrival of A Bench for Billie Holiday: 70 Sonnets, continuing James' love-affair with the 14-line Shakespearean form, this time with a more obviously autobiographical edge to celebrate his 70th year of existence.
A third collection of sonnets, Heart Stones, was published by Valley Press in November 2021.
A Bit of an Ice Breaker is a selection of the very best poetry from acclaimed Leeds-based writer James Nash. The poet has sifted through his first two collections, Deadly Sensitive and Coma Songs, and chosen some particular favourites to be made available (for the first time) in ebook form - along with a sprinkling of recently commissioned, previously uncollected work.
In their new, less crowded incarnation, Nash’s poems speak clearly of his interests and obsessions; these are writings of comic embarrassment, of close relationships, of birth and death. Vulgarity sits close to tender love poems, poetry is discussed with taxi-drivers, while no-one protests at drunken sexual activity in a crowded north Leeds sitting room.
From the author's introduction: 'Though some of the poems selected might be, like me, showing their age a little, I hope, as always, that the words are enough.'
Paperback temporarily out of stock.
Before the Second World War, there were around seventy cinemas operating in Leeds. Now, though some remain open, most of these ‘forgotten temples’ have been repurposed or demolished.
Since 2014, Leeds-based poets James Nash and Matthew Hedley Stoppard have been visiting the sites of legendary picture-houses, and documenting their current status with two inimitable, unmistakable poetic voices – whilst also considering the remarkable shared (yet personal) experience that is cinema-going.
So sit down on a spring-loaded chair, grab some popcorn, and enjoy one of the most original, evocative poetry collections since the invention of technicolour...
Praise for the authors:
“James Nash illuminates, wonderfully, the small details and the large issues of life, love and language. [He writes] magical and memorable poems: poignant yet rich with humour, and underpinned, above all, by a great humanity.”
— Sarah Waters
“Matthew Hedley Stoppard uses inventive language and striking imagery ... [he has written] one of the most arresting poetry collections of the year.”
— The Guardian
In A Bench for Billie Holiday, James Nash tenderly retraces seventy years of life through seventy new sonnets. Whether lightly sketching moments of truth or revisiting his younger self with the benefit of insight and experience, he imbues each fourteen-line fragment with wit, wisdom and wonder.
Looking back from various locations, each ideal for serious thought (whether the train, a bike or a sea-facing bench), he pieces together autobiographical shards of truth that reflect both the smallest details of his own life and the larger issues we face as a society, nation and species.
A perfect follow-up to his beloved first volume of sonnets, Some Things Matter, this book adds new breadth and depth to the work of one of Yorkshire’s most popular poets.
Praise for James Nash:
‘James Nash illuminates, wonderfully, the small details and the large issues of life, love and language. These are magical and memorable poems: poignant yet rich with humour, and underpinned, above all, by a great humanity.’ Sarah Waters
‘Love poems of maturity, not just in their assured technique but also in their subject matter. Nash makes plenty of room for humour too ... I cannot recommend it strongly enough.’ Ian Duhig
Since their first publication in 2012, James Nash’s sonnets have delighted thousands of poetry readers and listeners across the globe. Philosophical, satirical, warm and bittersweet, the sixty-three poem sequence spans the full breadth of the human experience; and can be enjoyed afresh in this second edition, which includes a handful of new sonnets, as heard on BBC Radio 3 in 2014.
“James Nash illuminates, wonderfully, the small details and the large issues of life, love and language. These are magical and memorable poems: poignant yet rich with humour, and underpinned, above all, by a great humanity.”
— Sarah Waters
“The sonnets of James Nash’s wonderful new collection are love poems of maturity, not just in their assured technique but also in their subject matter. Nash makes plenty of room for humour too ... I cannot recommend it strongly enough.”
— Ian Duhig
“James Nash’s poetry is a thing of beauty: subtle, unpretentious, moving.”
— Justin Cartwright
In his third volume of sonnets, James Nash examines urban and seaside environments in a Yorkshire he has known through fifty years living in the North. His sonnets soar over the land – from Leeds, a predominantly Victorian city, to the Wolds in the East Riding of Yorkshire, walking and cycling into the natural world with a pen and paper never far from his hand.
James openly shows his debts to the great poets and writers of previous generations, from Winifred Holtby to Philip Larkin, from Matthew Arnold to Dylan Thomas – and with this sparkling new collection, lays a fresh claim to be named among them. To borrow some of his own words, James' gift is to be a "clear microscope" for our times, finding hope in the many "miracles of detail" that pass through his unwavering gaze; into verses that glow with warmth, insight and poignancy. He thinks his old English master would be quite proud.
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