John Challis Readings

John Challis Readings


'In John Challis’s superb first collection, the past has not finished with us. It pursues and provokes and questions what we’re about. Entire vanished or vanishing worlds of work – on the East End docks, at Smithfield, in the pre-Murdoch print, at the wheel of a black cab – reveal vivid traffic between the living and the dead.’ – Sean O’Brien


John Challis's first full-length collection The Resurrectionists was published by Bloodaxe Books on 24 June 2021. It was launched with a live-streamed joint event hosted by Bloodaxe Books on 22 June (see video below).  John gave online workshop and reading at Ledbury Poetry Festival on 4 July, and at The Braag on 8 and 10 July, and will be reading in person at Durham Book Festival in October 2021.

The living and the dead are working side by side in John Challis’s dramatic debut collection, The Resurrectionists. Whether in London’s veg and meat markets, far below the Dartford Crossing, or on the edge of the Western world, these poems journey into a buried and sometimes violent landscape to locate the traces of ourselves that remain. Amidst the political disquiet rising from the groundwater, or the unearthing of the class divide at the gravesides of plague victims, the veil between the living and the dead is at its thinnest when a child is born, and something close to hope for the future is resurrected.

John Challis was born in London in 1984. He won a Northern Writers’ Award in 2012. He was a poet-in-residence with the Northern Poetry Library in 2015 and was chosen as one of the Poetry Trust’s Aldeburgh Eight. His pamphlet, The Black Cab (Poetry Salzburg, 2017), was a 2019 New Writing North Read Regional title. He works at Newcastle University as a Research Associate, and lives in Whitley Bay.

An interview with John Challis is on Shuddhashar Magazine here, along with some poems from The Resurrectionists.


The Resurrectionists was given an early review in The Guardian of 5 June. A slightly longer version of Ben Wilkinson's review is online here.

'In his debut collection, The Resurrectionists, John Challis reminds us how both personal and collective histories remain a part of our present.... this is poetry as archaeology, though with a lyric alchemy that can conjure “a heap / of gangrenous bodies” at a plague-pit excavation in modern London. Challis commemorates the lives of working London people – butchers in Smithfield market, a cabbie father, “barrow boys and cockle pickers” – in poems that reflect on class politics while generally avoiding nostalgia.... The Resurrectionists is alive to both the individual moment and the long perspective.' - Ben Wilkinson, The Guardian, best recent poetry

Michael Glover reviewed The Resurrectionists in his speed reading column in The Tablet of 14 August 2021.  Read here (register to read for free).

‘There is a tremendously punchy hiss and splutter to The Resurrectionists, John Challis’ first book. It is something to do with strikingly unfashionable subject matter elbowing its way in from the margins, so unlike the usual accompaniment to poetry’s verbal politesse: the stench of meat in Smithfield Market; a magnificent tribute to the brutal eyesore of a coal-fired power station; a London cabbie’s Knowledge praised as a species of wisdom. A young talent to keep a watchful eye on.’ – Michael Glover, The Tablet

Read two poems from the collection on Wild Court here.


Newcastle Centre for the Literary Arts, Thursday 7 October 2021, 7-8pm (via Zoom)

A Poetry Reading with John Challis and Sean O'Brien and 'in conversation' with Bill Herbert

NCLA’s Research Associate John Challis’ debut collection was published by Bloodaxe this year. He will be reading with Sean O’Brien, who was John’s PhD supervisor.  They will be in conversation with Newcastle University’s Bill Herbert.

Free online event.

Click here to book.


Durham Book Festival, Sunday 17th October, 4pm-5pm,  Gala Theatre Studio - in person

North East Poetry Showcase: John Challis, Jo Clement and Jake Morris-Campbell

Durham Book Festival celebrates three exciting voices in North Eastern poetry as John Challis, Jo Clement and Jake Morris-Campbell read from their new collections.

John will be reading from The Resurrectionists.  Jo Clement will read from her debut pamphlet Moveable Type.  Her first full collection Outlandish is published by Bloodaxe in May 2022.

Tickets: £8/£7

Click here to book.


John Challis will be reading at Blackwells in Newcastle on 4th November, and as part of Live Literature at Bolton University on 9th November.  Details to follow.



Tuesday 22 June 2021, 7pm BST, Joint live-streamed launch event

This wonderful joint launch reading by Penelope Shuttle, A.B. Jackson and John Challis celebrating the publication of their new poetry collections was live streamed on 22 June 2021. The audience was taken on a journey under the sea to the submerged land of Lyonesse with Penelope Shuttle, over the ocean with A B Jackson's The Voyage of St Brendan, and both underground and overground in London with John Challis in his debut The Resurrectionists.

The event was hosted by editor Neil Astley from his home in Northumberland.  Penelope joined from her home in Falmouth, John from Whitley Bay, and Scottish poet A B Jackson from his home in Leeds.  Their collections are all published on 24 June 2021 by Bloodaxe Books - all three are 'making something new out of things that have been lost', as Penelope put it.

John Challis read first in each set, followed by Penelope, then A B Jackson. The readings were followed by discussion and Q&A with the online audience.  All three books explore the past in one form or another - 'archaeology by verse', according to one audience member.


[01 June 2021]

Back to Poetry Events






View Larger Text