Winner of the Costa Book of the Year for her final collection, Inside the Wave, Helen Dunmore was as spellbinding a storyteller in her poetry as in her prose. Many of her haunting narratives draw us into darkness, engaging our fears and hopes in poetry of rare luminosity, while all her poetry also casts a bright, revealing light on the living world, by land and sea, on love, longing and loss.
Counting Backwards is a retrospective covering ten collections written over four decades, bringing together all the poems she included in her earlier selection, Out of the Blue (2001), with all those from her three later collections, Glad of These Times (2007), The Malarkey (2012) and Inside the Wave (2017), along with a number of additional poems from her earlier collections.
'Like polished pebbles worn true with time’s passing, the strongest poems confirm a gift for the hauntingly exact yet humane lyric... Dunmore can draw on poetry’s power to distil an entire lifetime into a moment.' – Ben Wilkinson, The Guardian (Best books of 2019 so far), on Counting Backwards
'Counting Backwards draws on 11 collections published over the course of four decades... this is surely the moment for Dunmore's subtle forms to find the enduring readership they deserve.' - David Wheatley, Literary Review
'Reverse chronology works well: Dunmore’s poetry deepened with time so the book makes a powerful start. She was always good, though, and in some ways her early work offers very different satisfactions to what came later.' - Edmund Prestwich, PN Review
‘Counting Backwards is an extraordinarily wide-ranging and rich body of work… Helen Dunmore died at the height of her powers and far too young. Fortunately, for us at least, she has left a body of work that is distinguished by its affirmation of life and its celebration of language. She is unlikely to be forgotten for as long as there remains a discerning readership for poetry.’ – David Cooke, The High Window
'Admirers of the late Helen Dunmore's poetry will be delighted to learn that Bloodaxe has published a collected edition incorporating all her poems... This is for those who would like to have the complete canon contained on one handsomely presented volume, as well as those admirers of her prose fiction who have yet to encounter her wonderful poetry. It is a must for every school and college library in the country.' - Frank Startup, The School Librarian
‘I urge you to seek out Helen Dunmore’s remarkable body of poems; hers is a true Yorkshire voice, brimming with honesty and power.’ – Ian McMillan, Yorkshire Post [on Counting Backwards: Poems 1975-2017]
‘Reading her poems, all those she wished to preserve, has been a revelation. In them her voice is consistently clear, and her intelligence probes delicately and with precision into the universal underpinning the ordinariness of the everyday, of our everyday. She can balance the light and dark of the four and a half decades of her writing life in seemingly effortless lines… having these poems together in one volume is life-enhancing.’ – D A Prince, London Grip [on Counting Backwards: Poems 1975-2017]
Comments on Inside the Wave:
'We all felt this is a modern classic; a fantastic collection, life-affirming and uplifting. The poems carry powerful messages that speak to all of us.' - Wendy Holden, Chair of Judges, Costa Book of the Year 2017
'An astonishing set of poems - a final, great achievement.' - Costa Poetry Award Judges Moniza Alvi, Kiran Millwood Hargrave and Nick Wroe on Inside the Wave, winner of the Costa Poetry Award
'Inside the Wave shows us not only what it is to be alive, but what it is like to be alive and to be mortal. It is a very special book indeed.' - Moniza Alvi, Costa Poetry Award Judge, The Guardian (The Week in Books)
'This is a prize that celebrates "great writing, a good read and broad appeal". There is no better definition of Inside the Wave: a book that is a fitting culmination, and lasting memorial, to a remarkable life and career.' - Nick Wroe, Costa Poetry Award Judge, The Guardian
‘2017 saw the loss of many loved poets. Inside the Wave by the late Helen Dunmore ensures her beautiful light will continue to reach earth.’ – Carol Rumens, The Observer (Poetry Books of the Year)
‘Helen Dunmore’s final collection of poems, Inside the Wave, is heartbreaking: she was a poet always in her heart, and she left us far too soon when she died in June.’ – Erica Wagner, New Statesman (Books of the Year)
'She was – first and last – a poet. Her first collection, The Apple Fall, was published when she was 30, her last, Inside the Wave, in April this year... Her last collection is her most spare and moving. Inside the Wave is smooth as a sea pebble and liminal – poised between life and death.' - Kate Kellaway, in her tribute to Helen Dunmore in The Guardian
‘The wave in this humane and visionary collection symbolises the flow of time and tide around and over individual lives… Lying down and watching the world at eye level constitutes much of what poets and novelists do and Dunmore’s work in both genres is always alive with sensuous detail.’ – Carol Rumens, Poetry Book of the Month, The Observer
‘Henry James, in The Art of Fiction, urged the apprentice novelist to “try to be one of those people on whom nothing is lost”. In a career of great distinction, Dunmore has not only acted on the advice – as both novelist and poet – but has offered the reader a chance to share her remarkable alertness, imaginative range and generosity of spirit.’ – Sean O’Brien, The Guardian [on Inside the Wave]
Helen Dunmore reads six poems
Filmed at her home in Bristol in June 2007, Helen Dunmore reads six poems: Wild strawberries’, ‘When You’ve Got’, ‘Candle poem’, ‘City lilacs’, 'Glad of these times' and ‘Dolphins whistling’. This film is from the DVD-book In Person: 30 Poets, filmed by Pamela Robertson-Pearce, edited by Neil Astley.
Helen Dunmore reads from The Malarkey
Helen Dunmore (1952-2017) read from her penultimate collection, The Malarkey (Bloodaxe Books, 2012) at Ledbury Poetry Festival on 8 July 2012. Here, in the last part of her reading, she reads five poems from the book: ‘Pianist, 103’, ‘What Will You Say’, ‘Come Out Now’, ‘I Heard You Sing in the Dark’ and ‘The Malarkey’. She also talks about how important it was for her to win the National Poetry Competition with the book’s title-poem in 2010. Her event was filmed for the festival by Alan Sennett, but only this footage survives