Please Do Not Touch This Exhibit explores disability, storytelling, and the process of mythologising trauma. Jen Campbell writes of Victorian circus and folklore, deep seas and dark forests, discussing her own relationship with hospitals — both as a disabled person, and as an adult reflecting on childhood while going through IVF.
‘These are poems which land the reader in the middle of a fantastical ocean and float them to shore on the precision and inventiveness of their imagery; these are poems that create their own mythspaces on the unstable edges of disability and chronic illness, poems which conjure new ways of articulating things about the experience of living in a body which might usually feel beyond language.’ – Andrew McMillan
‘I love these poems for their invention and bravery, their moving magic. Jen Campbell leads us to the places where land meets sea and borders are precarious, where the tender longing for a child entwines with the struggle of IVF, and where the traumas of girlhood and womanhood, disability and enchantment are woven together in a complex and vivid tapestry. A beautiful collection.' – Liz Berry
‘Jen Campbell's astounding second collection draws us into a world of mythology, sea monsters and metamorphosis. These are hauntingly beautiful poems that catalogue transformation in all of its horror and joy, strangeness and tenderness. Reading these poems is like being yanked off your feet by hidden currents. This book will burrow under your skin and stay there.’ – Cynthia Miller
‘The poems are bold and assured. A delicate balance of wonder, playfulness and horrific revelation.’ – Michel Faber
‘Lyrically beautiful.' – Malika Booker (on ‘Alopecia’)
‘Arresting and distinctive… reading it feels like entering a portal.’ – Polly Atkin (on ‘The Hospital Is Not My House’)
Please, Do Not Touch This Exhibit is Jen Campbell's second collection. Her first book-length collection, The Girl Aquarium (Bloodaxe Books, 2019), was shortlisted for the poetry category of the Books Are My Bag Readers Awards 2019 and was a semifinalist for the Goodreads Choice Awards 2019 (Best Poetry category).
‘When I think of some of my favorite contemporary poets, Jen Campbell always jumps to the top of my list. Campbell writes about themes around queerness, disability, and disfigurement, often intersecting these aspects of her identity with her love of fairy tales. Campbell’s word choice is perfection, and like all great poetry, when her poems are read aloud, they gain a new life. Her readings of her work are stunning. Her latest collection, Please Do Not Touch This Exhibit, comes out later this year .' - Kendra Winchester, Book Riot (Top 8 books by disabled poets for Poetry Month), on The Girl Aquarium
‘This blistering poetry collection explores showmanship, the so-called freak industry, fairytales and spectacle – and, in fact, it doesn’t so much unpick these things as smash them to pieces and make them new… I love so much about it: how it kicks against tropes of disfigurement, how science jostles against fantastical circus, how it explores the way in which girls’ bodies can be sites of both self-discovery and exploitation. It is defiant, bold, brilliant. As the penultimate poem states, “Smash this circus to the ground”.’ – Elizabeth Macneal, The Guardian (Top ten books about circuses and spectacle – No 2: The Girl Aquarium)
‘Jen Campbell explores deformities, disability, and definitions of people, language and places. She reassembles accepted theories, ideals and conventions, and, like plasticine, re-forms them.’ – Carla Rosa Manfredino, Times Literary Supplement
I miss doing events, so I filmed this video
Frustrated with not being able to get out and about during the pandemic, Jen Campbell does an online launch event for The Girl Aquarium two years after the book came out – marking Disability Pride Month. She introduces and reads a selection of poems from the book, and talks about the ways in which her poems draw upon fairy tales and explore attitudes towards disability, and how disabled people were exhibited in fairground and circus freak shows in earlier times.
Jen Campbell reads ‘Concerning the Principles of Human Knowledge’
Jen Campbell reads her poem ‘Concerning the Principles of Human Knowledge’ from her Bloodaxe debut collection The Girl Aquarium.
Jen Campbell reads ‘Girl Lunar’
Jen Campbell reads her poem ‘Girl Lunar’ from her Bloodaxe debut collection The Girl Aquarium.
Jen Campbell reads ‘Netted’ (in Geordie)
Jen Campbell reads her poem ‘Netted’ (in Geordie) from her Bloodaxe debut collection The Girl Aquarium.
Jen Campbell on the Waterstones vlog
Jen Campbell in conversation with Will Rycroft of Waterstones talking about her first poetry collection The Girl Aquarium, and also queerness, dialect (in her case Geordie/Mackem) and why Hollywood is obsessed with disfiguring its villains and how this affects people with disfigurements.
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