John Challis Readings

John Challis Readings


'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


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 read in person at Durham Book Festival on 17 October 2021.

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 North Shields.


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

'Thames' from The Resurrectionists was discussed by Carol Rumens in her Poem of the Week column in The Guardian of 20 September 2021.  Read here.

Two poems from the collection are featured on Wild Court here.

The Resurrectionists was given an early review in The Guardian of 5 June 2021. A slightly longer version of Ben Wilkinson's review is online here.

Michael Glover reviewed The Resurrectionists 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

An in-depth review by Stephen Payne was featured online in The Friday Poem of 24 September 2021.  Read in full here.



The Verb: After Dark Festival: The Chance to Change, BBC Radio 3, Friday 25 March 2022, 10pm

John Challis was a guest on a special edition of The Verb recorded in front of an audience at the After Dark Festival at Sage Gateshead.  John read from his debut collection The Resurrectionists.  The book is mostly set in London, but John has been based in North-East England for over ten years.

The recording took place on Saturday 18 March 2022 at Sage Gateshead’s Northern Rock Foundation Hall.

Listen here.



John Challis reads poems from The Resurrectionists: 'The Knowledge'; 'Plague Ground'; 'This is the market'; 'Thames'; 'Driving home from hospital after the hottest day of the year'; 'Night Change'; 'Hansard'; 'Naming the Light' and 'Prayer at the Edge of the West'. Filmed by Peter Hebden. Special thanks to Newcastle Centre for the Literary Arts.



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

This 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.


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 was reading with Sean O’Brien, who was John’s PhD supervisor.  Event hosted by Newcastle University’s Bill Herbert.

Sean read first, and then John Challis read from 25:17.  They both joined Bill for a discussion afterwards, with questions from the online audience.

[01 June 2021]

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