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by Richard Barnett

‘So let’s pretend I’m holding out magnificently – ’

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.

“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 poet and historian. He taught the history of science and medicine at Cambridge, UCL, and Oxford for more than a decade, and his history books include Medical London, a BBC Radio 4 Book of the Week, and The Sick Rose, an international bestseller.

His first poetry collection Seahouses was published by Valley Press in 2015, and was short-listed for the Poetry Business Prize. His next poetry publication was Wherever We Are When We Come to the End, a poetic experiment digging into the form and language of Wittgenstein's Tractatus, published in May 2021.


Edition: Paperback

Date Published: 2015-03-06

ISBN: 9781908853462

Catalogue Number: VP0071

Number of Pages: 52

Cover design by Jamie McGarry

Cover photograph by the author

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