Longlisted for the 2019 Michael Murphy Memorial Prize
Assembly Lines asks what it means to be here and now, in post-industrial towns and cities of the heartlands that are forever on the periphery. From schools and workplaces and lives lived in ‘a different town, just like this’, these poems take a historical perspective on the present day from the ground upwards – whether the geological strata that underpins a ‘dithering island’ or the ever-moving turf under a racehorses’ hooves.
This is a new Midlands realism, precision-engineered, which seeks wonderment in unlikely places. By turns both fierce and tender, the poems in Jane Commane’s first book-length collection re-assemble the landscape, offer up an alternative national curriculum and find ghosts and strange magic in the machinery of the everyday. Between disappearances and reformations, the natural and the man-made, the lines are drawn; you might try to leave your hometown, but it will never leave you.
‘Coventry poet Jane Commane’s Assembly Lines captures the desolation haunting Midland towns and indeed the whole state as Brexit looms.’ – John Gohorry, Morning Star (Poetry Books of the Year 2018)
‘Jane Commane’s first collection Assembly Lines… enjoys the “commonplace miracles” of the ordinary people who make the wheels go round… The whole book is an elegy for a generation of “Midlands kids” who “grew up in the back seats / of the long-gone marques of British manufacturing"…’ – Andy Croft, Morning Star
‘For all its apparent focus on the past, I think Assembly Lines is very much about the here and now: a patchwork of contemporary perspectives on the past, assembled in ways that might illuminate the present. A first rate debut.’ – Paul McDonald, Envoi
'What a joy to read these poems and be led by Jane Commane through Edgelands Midlands – its secret geologies and ghostly factories, 'dog eared estate-avenues' and restless classrooms. In these vivid, fierce poems melancholy and unease spangle the Midlands air like dust and 'heartsick towns' search for new ways to be and begin again. The poems in Assembly Lines work with magic and tough tenderness and linger in the mind long after their shift is done. A shining debut from one of poetry's brightest guiding lights.' – Liz Berry
'Assembly Lines is a marvellous collection: mature, clear, brilliantly visioned in lost worlds of cities, lives and livelihoods. It speaks, almost telepathically, to the nation as it is and as it was: broken, divided, where the hope lies thinly and can be caught only in perception. This is writing as an act of community, even when the community may never listen or has never cared. Yet by default of these poems, where writing is also an act of attention, and attention an act of love, every poem here is a kind of love poem. It is like listening to a long solo in the dark. A song to the Midlands.' – David Morley
Jane Commane reads from Assembly Lines at Ledbury
Jane Commane reads and introduces eight poems from her Bloodaxe debut collection, Assembly Lines (2018), at Ledbury Poetry Festival on 1st July 2018, when she shared the stage in the town’s Burgage Hall with fellow Midlander poet Liz Berry. The poems she reads are: ‘Midlands kids’, ‘History’ from ’National Curriculum’, ‘Sand’, ‘The Shop-floor Gospel’, ‘UnWeather’, ‘Shrug’, ‘Dog, on First Being Named’, and ‘Coventry is’.