Shortlisted for the T.S. Eliot Prize 2023
I Think We’re Alone Now was supposed to be a book about intimacy: what it might look like in solitude, in partnership, and in terms of collective responsibility. Instead, the poems are preoccupied with pop music, etymology, surveillance equipment and cervical examination, church architecture and beetles. Just about anything, in fact, except what intimacy is or looks like.
So this is a book that runs on failure, and also a book about failures: of language to do what we want, of connection to be meaningful or mutual, and of the analytic approach to say anything useful about what we are to one another. Here are abrupt estrangements and errors of translation, frustrations and ellipses, failed investigations. And beetles.
I Think We’re Alone Now is Abigail Parry's second collection. Her first collection, Jinx (Bloodaxe Books, 2018), was shortlisted for the Forward Prize for Best First Collection 2018 and the Seamus Heaney Centre First Collection Poetry Prize 2019.
‘The book I’d like to recommend is Abigail Parry’s I Think We’re Alone Now. I first heard Abigail Parry perform her work at this year’s Penarth Literary Festival Poetry Showcase and was caught by her vivid voice and the intelligence of her rhythm and clarity. She can shock you and skin you with her wit, yet her poems feel strangely merciful, cleverly observant, and filled with references to everything from Rilke and Shakespeare to Richie Cordell and Radiohead.’ – Katie Munnik, Wales Arts Review (Books of the Year 2023)
‘Abigail Parry continues to write about anything she turns her eye on with cheerily nonchalant sprezzatura;’ – John Clegg, London Review Bookshop (Books of the Year 2023)
'What makes this collection thrilling is Parry's relentless and immense curiosity, often signalled by her breaking into asides and parentheses ... for all its allusiveness and its continual sidelong glances, I Think We're Alone Now is entirely companionable.' – Ian Sansom, The Daily Telegraph (Poetry Book of the Month)
‘Shortlisted for this year’s T.S. Eliot Prize, this is a book which showcases Parry’s masterly grasp of some of the more challenging poetry principles: space, for one thing. Story, for another … there’s much to ponder, amuse, excite, and admire … as one reads this beetle-shiny, brilliantine, brain-bug of a book.’ – Mab Jones, Buzz Magazine
‘These impressively, formally varied poems are precision-assembled, and there is something in each … which tells of meticulous planning, exacting execution and a mesmerising, unrelentingly creative mind.’ – Beth McDonagh, DURA on I Think We’re Alone Now
'In Abigail Parry’s second collection, every aperture is haunted. These poems limn the spaces between vertigo and hyperextension, drawing then rethreading the needle through sites of forgetfulness and failure: are you unsure you heard that right? Listen again, Parry’s speakers exhort, scraping tines into the grooves of torch songs, scattering speculums and stereotaxic rats into the pages. What the poet pursues, and enacts through a formally blistering surgery of poetics, is nothing less than the upward ruination of the everyday: nothing exists that cannot be unspooled, unknotted, blasted open, wired shut. The body of this work promises blood, and brutality, and ridiculousness, plus every mistake anyone has ever made fletched through with gold. Run into its pages with every weapon you possess. None of them will be enough to keep you unmarked for good.' – Shivanee Ramlochan
From the reviews of Jinx:
'Of the 100 or so poetry books I have reviewed for this paper since 2017, there's none I've returned to more often, or with more pleasure, than Abigail Parry's Jinx.' - Tristram Fane Saunders, The Daily Telegraph, Poem of the Week, 31 October 2020
‘Abigail Parry, in her first collection, Jinx, performs twists and turns on playground games, ghost lore, cantrips and myths; the poems strike deep on matters of love and pleasure, sex and risk, as well as dazzle with their antic wit and control.’ – Marina Warner, New Statesman (Books of the Year 2019)
‘Monsters, masquerades and B-movie stars are all serenaded in infectious rhythm and rhyme in the year’s most exciting poetry debut.’ – The Telegraph (2018’s Top 50 Books, on Jinx)
‘With macabre wit and a gothic sense of romance, Jinx returns obsessively to a handful of images. It gives the collection a singular and cohesive vision, while also turning it into a claustrophobic, repetitive nightmare. It may not be to everyone’s taste. For this reader, it was electrifying... Jinx is a charming collection. Read it at your peril.’ – Tristram Fane Saunders, The Telegraph (Poetry Book of the Month)
'Abigail Parry’s Jinx is pure magic — dangerous, soulful and splendidly virtuosic.’ – Kate Wakeling, Morning Star (Poetry Books of the Year 2018)
'Abigail Parry’s Jinx is a collection as taut and self-contained as Bluebeard’s bloody chamber (a Carteresque image that recurs in its pages). Parry’s work is showboating and vaudevillian in the most delicious sense, loaded with punning, the jangle of internal rhyme and incantatory repetition.' – A.K. Blakemore, Poetry London
'These are outstanding poems: constructed like a collection of beautifully made, trick, locked boxes, they are innovative, complex, and lush in their language and texture. In an explosion of gaming we find in the poems etymological digging, rare words, number games, anagrams, hidden shapes – as well as a range of experiments in traditional and contemporary form. This is poetry con brio, ambitious, far-reaching, but using disguise to tell hidden stories of emotion and pain.' – Jo Shapcott
'Abigail Parry brings a trickster’s delight in instability, not just to the old themes of innocence and experience, but to the shadowed and less commonly charted regions that lie between. Her poems move, and change, rapidly and headily, with a musical springiness that never flags and is all her own. Jinx is an abundant, exuberant, unsolemnly wise, and wholly beguiling first book that marks Parry out as the pace-setter of her generation.' – Christopher Reid
is a plodding, humdrum thing, not like the quick fix
of a good incantation: its whiplash logic.’ (‘The Oracle’)
'…Abigail Parry’s scintillating and disturbing poems are presented as games – games of extraordinary linguistic richness and imagination, whose rules are unclear but engrossing. The poems work with pairings and confrontations as games do: man/woman, people/spooks, in love/out of love, life/death. The creatures and ideas that people these poems of wit and wonders are both worldly objects and magical tokens. Often they have a haunting beauty, like the delicate, short Japanese series on moths. At the end, the book throws the cards in the air, like Alice: You’re nothing – nothing but a pack of cards. But this book is a great deal more than that, echoing in ‘52 Card Pickup’ Ovid’s claim for play in Remedia Amoris. In my view this vivid metaphysical collection is the most exciting and interesting poetic debut for years.' – Bernard O'Donoghue
Abigail Parry: I Think We’re Alone Now
Abigail Parry reads eight poems from I Think We’re Alone Now: ‘In the dream of the cold restaurant’, ‘Some remarks on the General Theory of Relativity’, ‘Speculum’, ‘Whatever happened to Rosemarie?’, ‘The Fly Dressers’ Guide’, ‘Giallo’, ‘The brain of the rat in stereotaxic space’ and ‘It’s the lark that sings so out of tune’. Neil Astley filmed her reading from her new collection at her home in Cardiff in May 2023 ahead of the book’s publication in November.
Abigail Parry reading from Jinx
Abigail Parry reads eight poems from Jinx: ‘Arterial’, ‘The Man Who’, ‘Goat’, ‘Emma, you’re a gamer’, ‘J♥’, ‘The Lemures’, ‘The Courtesan Jigoku Dayū sees herself as a skeleton in the mirror of Hell’ and ‘Turn the Blue Iris’. Neil Astley filmed her reading a selection of poems from her Bloodaxe debut collection in London in April 2018. There are separate videos below of her reading two other poems, ‘The Quilt’ and ‘Pasodoble with Lizards’.
Abigail Parry reads ‘The Quilt’
Abigail Parry reads her poem ‘The Quilt’ from Jinx.
Abigail Parry reads ‘Pasodoble with Lizards’
Abigail Parry reads her poem ‘Pasodoble with Lizards’ from Jinx.
Ireland & EU: Click here to order from Books Upstairs in Dublin
USA: Click here to order from Indiebound or Bookshop.org