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A Bench for Billie Holiday: 70 Sonnets

by James Nash

New sonnets celebrating 70 years of life, from a modern master of the 14-line form.

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


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.


Edition: First

Date Published: 2018-10-16

ISBN: 9781912436095

Catalogue Number: VP0129

Number of Pages: 88

Cover design by Jamie McGarry

Cover illustration by Jacky Fleming

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