The Penny Dropping offers an account of a cherished relationship from first meeting to eventual break-up. Distance gives the writer a retrospective clarity from which she does not flinch despite its challenges (‘Look at me,’ laments the speaker in ‘Pretty Woman’, ‘stepping back into the dress, / pulling up the side zip, smoothing it down, / as though that’s all it took.’).
But ultimately poems such as ‘No Point Now’ undo their own argument that the penny has dropped years too late, for the process of re-evaluating the past bestows on it a new and altered value. In ‘Films We Saw at The Phoenix’, the speaker recalls the lovers in one film whose relationship is also at an end, but who look back and ‘spread it out tenderly, the tapestry / of their love which they alone could see'. The immediate power of these poems is such that much is at stake on every page.
Helen Farish won the Forward Prize for Best First Collection. She has also received a Poetry Book Society Recommendation and been shortlisted for the T.S. Eliot Prize.
'The Penny Dropping, Helen Farish’s verse-sequence about a love relationship, could be called a page-turner if it weren’t for the fact that every page is a lyric poem of such compulsion that it unfailingly and hauntingly detains the reader’s attention. As a whole, it has all the coherence of a novel; but there is so much more to this beautifully realised lyric collection of the kind that she is a recognised master of. It is a masterpiece in both forms to a very unusual degree.' – Bernard O'Donoghue
Praise for Helen Farish's poetry:
‘The Dog of Memory
is a deep and meditative ode … which handles time and memory with immense delicacy, imagination, and wonderful attention to detail.’ – Poetry Book Society
‘This book is Farish’s third – her debut won the Forward Prize for First Collection – and it is a confident performance. Farish’s poems have balance, and a smiling stride; they take their time (and seldom too much)…. The Dog of Memory is an intriguing offering from Helen Farish, evidence above all of a poet… working out what to do with the strange and beautiful things laid at her feet by her own capacity for recall.’ – Leaf Arbuthnot, Times Literary Supplement
‘Nocturnes at Nohant: The decade of Chopin and Sand is an original extremely intelligent working through of a complex relationship between two artists and their work. I loved the poems. The sequence works so well as a story and is so nuanced I felt completely absorbed in it. And full of admiration for Farish’s great skill.’ – Melvyn Bragg
‘Her locations are as varied as you’d expect from a well-travelled, sharp-eyed twenty-first century poet, but her native Cumbria is the source she constantly returns to, slowing the tempo to savour its place-names and define its subtle colours… A rare combination of elegiac feeling, humour, and earthy reminiscence characterises Farish’s poems.’ – Carol Rumens, The Poetry Review [on The Dog of Memory]
‘Helen Farish knows intimately who she is and her beautiful poems capture the intense sadness of memories recalled as the years pass. The poems are wonderfully, closely crafted. She is possessed by memory, but it is a memory that is both painful and illuminating. They are poems which are deeply felt, and though they read as though they draw intensely on her own life, their power to move comes from their reticence, from what is not said, but is deeply understood and quietly acknowledged.’ – Steve Matthews, Cumberland News [on The Dog of Memory]
‘These are intelligent, brave pieces that make you wince and smile.’ – Jackie Kay, ‘Books of the Year’, Evening Standard
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