Poetry Book Society Wild Card Choice
Amy Key’s Isn’t Forever is a spellbook for feminine selfhood in a world where a sense of self is flimsy, elusive and unrequited. The poems in this book are obsessive in their desire to construct and breach the terms of their own intimacy. They have their own ‘narrative costume’ but are vexed with it, not quite able to master the ‘diligence of having a body’. This is a book where a tender and sabotaging shame of aloneness has taken root. Where wants cluster and are at war with each other. Where the heart is at once ‘all lurgy’ and an investment piece to be saved for best. Where the sea is the only solace, but the sea is blasé.
The ‘ta-dah!’ and candour of these poems is an exercise in Amy Key’s imaginative protection and urge for personal extravaganza, an attempt to acknowledge but fight back the brutal inner voice. The obscure audience of the reader is never out of sight.
Amy Key's first collection Luxe was published by Salt in 2013. Isn't Forever is her second book-length collection.
'Amy Key does for verse what Phoebe Waller-Bridge, writer of Fleabag, is doing for television, wrenching laughter of shock and recognition from line after line.' - Susannah Herbert, The Observer
‘As for poetry, I fell hard for Amy Key’s Isn’t Forever, a gorgeous, sad box of delights about intimacy, bad bodies, sorrow… Key is adept at linguistic surprises, charting women’s lives with a savage delicacy.’ – Olivia Laing, The Guardian (Best Books of 2018)
'... Isn’t Forever (Bloodaxe), is playful, surreal and enchanting but also rooted in brutal emotional honesty. She is writer of a rare and strange magic.' – Sarah Perry, The Guardian (Best Summer Books 2018)
‘Ms Key’s poetry is sublime. Read this to lose yourself in another person’s worldview entirely. Hypnotic with a cutting, witty edge, these poems invite you into a hall of mirrors reflecting everything about the self – from sex, to love, to death. Despite this, they are not alienating, but rather draw you closer and closer to understanding an inner transcendent human truth.’ – Max Wallis, Mr Porter (Best Summer Poetry)
'... her ornate, aching collection Isn’t Forever is stitched through with a keen awareness of the thrall and challenges of what we wear.' - Rosalind Jana, Vogue
‘Isn’t Forever is a PBS Wild Card Choice. Sad and sunny, tightlaced and funny, you have to like Amy Key’s poems.’ – Claire Crowther, The Poetry Review
'Isn’t Forever is delightful and deceptive. Its speakers are teetering on edges: of the land, of social expectations and self-acceptance, beauty standards, happiness, even life. The trauma of living as a woman, in an objectified, judged body, pervades everything. But Key’s women are warriors, layering masks until they become armour, completely opaque and protecting...' - Jazmine Linklater, Poetry Wales
'The reader is continually astonished by the outrageous acuity of Key’s use of imagery; she persuades, utterly, on the most unlikely ground.' – Steve Whitaker, The Yorkshire Times [on Isn't Forever]
‘Amy Key’s Isn’t Forever is a defiant and unapologetic collection about the female psyche and feminine identity in the twenty-first century… Isn’t Forever is compelling because of Key’s determination to voice the chaos that girls and women live through…. Invoking legends in fashion, music, art, and literature, Key asserts her own feminist voice in the canon of contemporary poetry.’ - Melony Bethala, The Compass
'I’m truly bewitched by Amy Key’s poems. They cut right to the quick of what means to be a modern girl. Honestly, they make me feel dizzy. They’re like beautiful rooms I want to lie down in; they are perpetually surprising, ferocious and unruly. They’re brave and splendid, extravagant and precise. They track difficult emotional states of longing and desire, hatred, fear and self-disgust, and yet they are also witty, playful, luxuriant and intensely concerned with joy. Ugh, just buy them.' – Olivia Laing
'The work of Amy Key can be described as magical, hallucinatory, erotic, lush with texture and hot with weird emotion. Smart and strange, it attaches to you audaciously and doesn't let you go. Like a fine poetry wine, I find notes of Matthea Harvey, Emily Dickinson, Mary Szybist. Yet I am always surprised, line by line, at how recognisable her style is, how unlike anything else it is.' – Brenda Shaughnessy
'Amy Key's Isn’t Forever is a book of love: love for both the “pure carcass” of experience and the “unreality of imagined things”. The poems set out from moments of desire and squander themselves in the act of making something seemingly unusable which actually alters, gently but authoritatively, our conception of utility. “If I built aeroplanes,” she tells us, “I would begin by making one that was too beautiful”.’ – Oli Hazzard
'This utterly original book asks what it means to inhabit a female body, while serving as tribute - through form and message - to women of the past and present. Exploring femininity, felinity, trauma, beauty and loss, these intensely musical poems have unforgettable lines that will echo in your head like a favourite song.' - Kathryn Maris
'Today finally sees the publication of Amy Key's extraordinary collection, “Isn’t Forever” with Bloodaxe Books. Amy is one of the most talented, innovative poets working today, who regularly stops my heart.' – Award-winning Irish writer and journalist Sinéad Gleeson (via Twitter)
Amy Key reads from Isn’t Forever
Pamela Robertson-Pearce filmed Amy Key reading a selection of poems from Isn’t Forever at her home in Peckham, London, in February 2019. The poems she reads here are: ‘I do not need the sea to love me back’, ‘Delphine is on silent retreat’, ‘Oh you most beautiful inside of a vegetable!’, ‘The news reported she wore her body to the event’, ‘The garden’, ‘Palest Greens’, ‘I disowned my real pain and engaged with its subordinates’, ’Sensory notes on Music for 18 Musicians’, ‘How to be sexy’, ‘We were alone for the first time’ and ‘Lousy with unfuckedness, I dream’; followed by a short interview with Bloodaxe editor Neil Astley.
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