‘Today, I shall have a few guests, Madame Sand amongst them.’ It’s December 1836, Paris. Chopin is living on the fashionable rue de la Chaussée d’Antin and the novelist George Sand on the rue Lafitte. But falling in love with Sand also meant falling in love with her ancestral home, Nohant, a manor house set deep in the Berry countryside.
In Nocturnes at Nohant, we hear not only from Chopin and Sand, but also a rich cast of supporting characters who debate, in their sometimes humorous and often surprising way, the relationship between words and music, place and creativity, and the nature of the creative process itself. The powerful love story which threads the sequence together involves spending time not only in rural France, but also Warsaw, Paris, Majorca and Venice.
Helen Farish’s debut collection, Intimates, a Poetry Book Society Recommendation, was shortlisted for the T.S. Eliot Prize and won the Forward Prize for Best First Collection in 2005. Nocturnes at Nohant shows a considerable advance on that achievement, notably with her mastery of voice and narrative.
‘Nocturnes at Nohant is an original extremely intelligent working through of a complex relationship between two artists and their work. I loved the poems. The sequence works so well as a story and is so nuanced I felt completely absorbed in it. And full of admiration for Farish’s great skill.’ – Melvyn Bragg
‘A delicate collection which winds differing melodies into a truly lovely, if quiet, narrative, melding reality and fiction seamlessly.’ – Jennifer A. McGowan, Orbis, on Nocturnes at Nohant
‘A sustained feat of imaginative recreation.’ – Keith Richmond, Tribune
‘Sometimes light-hearted and sometimes solemn, the potency of these poems lies in their beautifully observed details.’ – PBS Bulletin
‘The intimacy of Helen Farish's poems is of an extraordinary kind: at once close to and distant from family and body and thought. The poems are bodily and disembodied, emotionally engaged and detached, passionate and reasoned. Nobody writes with quite this variety of intelligence.’ – Bernard O’Donoghue