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Pit Lullabies | Bloodaxe Books

Jessica Traynor

Pit Lullabies

Jessica Traynor

Publication Date : 24 Mar 2022

ISBN: 9781780376066

Pages: 65
Size :216 x 138mm
Rights: World

Shortlisted for the Yeats Society Sligo's Poetry Prize 2023

Poetry Book Society Recommendation

These intimate, visceral and often wickedly funny poems journey through the darker days of new parenthood, teasing out the anxieties which plague us when night falls. Violence against women, the destruction of our environment, the poisons and pitfalls of 21st-century living are explored here in poems by turns lyrical and earthy, yearning and angry. They mine gold from the darkness and seek luminescence in the deepest oceans.

Pit Lullabies is Jessica Traynor’s third collection, following Liffey Swim (2014) and The Quick (2019) from Ireland’s Dedalus Press.

‘This year saw so much stellar Irish writing: Polluted Sex, short stories by Lauren Foley, Louise Kennedy’s Trespasses, Sara Baume’s Seven Steeples, Edel Coffey’s thriller Breaking Point (all novels), Jessica Traynor’s poetry collection Pit Lullabies…’  – Sinéad Gleeson, The Irish Times (Books of the Year 2022, Writers’ Favourites)

‘Some of our best-known poets, such as Jessica Traynor and Annemarie Ní Churreáin, also released new collections. Traynor’s Pit Lullabies (Bloodaxe) and Ní Churreáin’s The Poison Glen (Gallery) were both concerned with incantation, hexing, history and womanhood, though each is a distinct and urgent voice in their own right.’ – Martina Evans & Seán Hewitt, The Irish Times (The best new poetry of 2022)

'I’ve been moved by Jessica Traynor’s mothering poems in Pit Lullabies – intricate, thought-provoking and delightful.' – Nuala O’Connor, The Irish Times (Best books of 2022 so far)

‘Ireland, where I’m from, is not short of great writers… In poetry, there were standout works from Jessica Traynor in Pit Lullabies and Victoria Kennefick’s Eat or We Both Starve.’ – Sinéad Gleeson, The Guardian (Books enjoyed in June 2022)

'Addressing a daughter over a period stretching from foetal scan to birth and beyond, she is broadly concerned with the value as well as the control of darkness. “Try to be the shape that holds the dark,” she advises at the end of 'Pit Lullaby IX'. This exhumation and valuing of the dark may be connected with the breaking of silence and the exposure of institutionalised forms of maternal and child abuse that have been the Irish writer’s preoccupations in some of her previous work. Darkness exhumed, like silence broken, becomes a bright and vital force.' – Carol Rumens, Poem of the Week, The Guardian, on Pit Lullabies

‘This third collection from a prominent Irish poet contains “intimate, visceral and often wickedly funny” poems which journey through the darker days of new parenthood and “tease out the anxieties which plague us when night falls”.’ – Caroline Sanderson, The Bookseller, New titles: Non-fiction, March 2022, on Pit Lullabies

‘…it is that strong sense of uncanniness throughout Jessica Traynor’s Pit Lullabies that marks it with distinction. The eponymous Pit Lullabies – there are 10 in total – form a wild, exhilarating backbone to this collection where bone is a key word.  A book about motherhood and birth trauma… its roots are firmly entrenched in the natural world… Traynor’s poems, like those of Walter de la Mare, are most deadly when they are pared back, almost child-like.’ – Martina Evans, The Irish Times

‘Award-winning poet Jessica Traynor’s new collection Pit Lullabies is now available; it’s a beautiful meditation on, among other themes, new parenthood, violence against women, and the destruction of the environment.’ – Liadán Hynes, Sunday Independent (Notions & Necessities)

‘What a brilliant year for poetry! I am very much enjoying Jessica Traynor’s third collection, Pit Lullabies which is witty, wicked and moving in equal measure.’ – Victoria Kennefick, RTE Culture (cultural picks)

'I’ve long admired Jess Traynor’s poetry, which is as confident being serious and historical, as it is when it’s arch and playful. There’s a tenderness to how Traynor writes about motherhood, the body, the places we find ourselves. Her new collection Pit Lullabies proves that she’s one of our finest poets, moving through myths, love, and the environment. It’s a visceral work that I know I’ll go back to again and again.' – Sinéad Gleeson, Dubray Books blog:  Irish Writers Recommend Books by Irish Women

‘But while it may be dark stuff… the language is also wonderful: gothic, Anglo-Saxon, visceral, and well, exhilarating. It’s also attentive to both the tender and the subterranean emotions that arise with the experience of motherhood. More than that, Pit Lullabies harks back to knowledge from ancient times, reminding us of our innate powers as women and as life-givers.’ – Afric McGlinchey, Dublin Review of Books

'Traynor’s style is forthright, yet also allusive, at times employing shock tactics as an opportunity for philosophical musings, encouraging the reader to experience these poems multiple times.' – Lind Grant-Oyeye, Poetry Ireland Review, on Pit Lullabies

'Traynor's poems lurk in.. liminal spaces between light and dark, joy and fear, real and imagined, so that the world is unsettled and unsettling.' – Jenna Clake, Poetry London, on Pit Lullabies

‘Here an acerbic wit is fused with ruminations on the female body along with the concerns of early parenthood… Traynor’s sound is effortlessly hypnotic, her language formed, deliberate and lyrical.’ – Anthony Anaxagorou, Poetry Book Society Selector, on Pit Lullabies

'Fierce and profound, Pit Lullabies is one of the vital books of the new Irish poetry.' – Ciarán O’Rourke , New Hibernia Review

‘While environmental crisis mounts in the background and modern life pulses forward, Pit Lullabies traces the arc from birth to infancy and toddlerdom as a much-wanted child ages on a planet that teeters toward catastrophe. Confronting the difficult realities of birth and its aftermath, the tension between the newly born and Earth’s dead end builds slowly as Pit Lullabies tries to reconcile the gift of mothering with the fact of having “brought you / to this world of always evening, always leaving,” (“The Signs”).’ – Shara Lessley, West Branch

‘Visionary, luminous and haunted, Jessica Traynor’s poems are home to a host of compelling characters: witches, changelings, the spirit of Hildegard of Bingen. In The Quick, even the grotesque is rendered with subtle delicacy – a woman whose “lungs fold like an origami bird”. These poems will give you goose-bumps.’ – Helen Mort

‘Written with a lightness of touch, these poems are capable of dealing with the big themes – especially those of birth, death or illness…this poet [is] capable of creating canonical work which draws on a contemporary re-thinking of poetic traditions while finding a voice that is wholly her own.’ – Siobhán Campbell on The Quick in Poetry Ireland Review

Jessica Traynor reads from Pit Lullabies

Jessica Traynor reads and introduces seven poems from Pit Lullabies: ‘Anatomy Scan’, ‘In the Birthing Room’, ‘If You Can Tame a Wildcat You Can Raise a Baby’, ‘Pit Lullaby, V’, ‘Pit Lullaby, VII’ and ‘Lullaby’. Neil Astley filmed her reading from her collection at her home in Dublin in April 2024.

Jessica Traynor reads from Pit Lullabies at the Bloodaxe online launch

Jessica Traynor read poems from Pit Lullabies at this Bloodaxe online launch event shared with Moniza Alvi and Amali Gunasekera whose three collections were all published in March 2022. At the end of the readings Bloodaxe editor Neil Astley hosted a discussion between the three poets about their new books.

Jessica Traynor reads 'Onion Poem' from Pit Lullabies

Jessica Traynor reads 'Onion Poem' from Pit Lullabies in this film directed by Matthew Thompson for the Adrian Brinkerhoff Poetry Foundation's Read By series produced in collaboration with Irish Arts Center, NYC.

Jessica Traynor reads 'Night Run' from Pit Lullabies

Jessica Traynor read her poem 'Night Run' from Pit Lullabies in Books Ireland's Poetry Happening series, accompanied by the text of the poem. See the feature here.


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