Poetry Book Society Recommendation
How might poetry help us articulate the body in illness, in work, and in love? Tiffany Atkinson’s fourth collection includes the prize-winning sequence ‘Dolorimeter’, which takes fragments of speech and found text from a hospital residency to pay homage to the inventiveness and humour of patients and staff in a series of meditations on the notion that pain resists language. Away from the wards, other poems consider the strangeness of the workplace and the embarrassing incursions of desire into everyday life, celebrating the ability of poetic language to lay awkwardness and uncertainty alongside unexpected openings and glimpses of revelation.
A lumen is a unit of light, but also a channel or an opening inside the body; perhaps, in this collection, it may also serve as a metaphor for the work of the poem itself.
Lumen's opening sequence 'Dolorimeter' won Medicine Unboxed's Creative Prize in 2014.
'In Tiffany Atkinson’s Lumen, the poem ‘Accident and Emergency’ from the opening sequence ‘Dolorimeter’ begins: “Anyone claiming that time / is objective deserves a night / in A&E”. The heart-breaking and vividly tangible similes and metaphors in ‘Heroin works’ load up to overwhelm us, as the chronic pain does, here under the spotlight, for a young woman and her family. The book moves from its intense sequence on pain into joyful, sharp, smart poems that wryly monitor and transform the private business of friendship, dogs, food, firewood, work, neighbours and crying into a metaphysical of the quotidian. I love the book’s lustrous vocabulary – think sempiternal, mommet, thurifer – and the particularity of its point of view, which is inquiring, with a ‘what am I really?’ mode of address and a quiet persistence. A friend of a book.’ – Jane Wilkinson, Poetry News (Best poetry books of the year 2021)
‘Like Samuel Taylor Coleridge’s ‘The Rime of the Ancient Mariner’ (1798), ‘Dolorimeter’s’ narrator is a voyager charting unexplored mythological seas; the nineteen poems, read together, form an epic, Odyssean whole… Atkinson’s magical realist descriptions, rich with gleeful, onomatopoeic imagery, swirl together and satisfyingly pop with anachronistic flashes. Patient, nurse, administrator, doctor, every one of them vibrant, enchanting, and persuasive. Full of life, even in the midst of death.’ - Laura Grace Simpkins, Medical Humanities
'Atkinson’s Lumen is a delight. The poetry is exuberant, smart and utterly original' - Katrina Naomi, New Welsh Review
‘...a good poet makes you laugh, wonder, and even cringe at times; they unsettle you. It’s not always easy reading...Atkinson’s Lumen gives us a glimpse into language’s dizzying heights...’ - Nathan Munday, Wales Arts Review
'Atkinson's poems are intent on tackling 'the quandary of what's inside', and doing so with a cool, intelligent beauty, offset by wit and serious personal reflection. The cover of this book is a thing of beauty in itself.' - Diana Cant, The Alchemy Spoon [on Lumen]
‘Tiffany Atkinson’s fourth collection, Lumen, is delightfully innovative and thought-provoking in at times troubling, moving, intense and also exhilarating ways.... Lumen is one of those collections that is infinitely re-readable, sparking new connections and revealing new delights every time.’ - Sarah James, The High Window
Some responses to So Many Moving Parts:
'A fresh, moving and brilliantly inventive book... some of the most striking, and touching, moments in the book come from its dry sense of humour... Atkinson sees the absurdity in everyday scenarios, but also their poetic potential.' – Sarah Howe, Poetry Wales, on So Many Moving Parts
'The unexpected imagery always packs a punch... Visceral, and at times unsettling, this darkly iridescent verse is hardly comfort poetry – but that's the point.' – Juanita Coulson, The Lady, on So Many Moving Parts
'I mouthed a silent "wow" at much of her imagery, including "sexuality is mostly a crystal / like the grit of sugar at the elbow / on a wipe-dry table" and "like mirrors in a changing room / that whack you back and forth between yourself".' – Katrina Naomi, Mslexia, on So Many Moving Parts
'A startling book, full of outstanding poems to be returned to again and again... Atkinson's technique can take poetry, incredibly successfully, to places it is difficult to remember it having been before.' – Jonathan Edwards, New Welsh Review, on So Many Moving Parts
'This is poetry of acute aliveness... These new poems have the dynamic quality of robust, heightened speech... With these revelatory, refreshing poems, Atkinson conveys a many-faceted self, and frees up possibilities for the voice in poetry.' – Deryn Rees-Jones & Moniza Alvi, Poetry Book Society Bulletin, on So Many Moving Parts
Tiffany Atkinson: ‘You Can’t Go There’
Tiffany Atkinson read her sequence ‘You Can’t Go There’ from Lumen in NCLA’s 2020 Inside Writing showcase.
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