Image by Caroline Forbes

Helen Farish

b. 1962


Intimates' faces up to life at every turn. It celebrates, it laments, it answers back. David Constantine.

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About Helen Farish

Helen Farish was born in Cumbria in 1962, where she now lives. She has been a Fellow at Hawthornden International Centre for Writers and was the first female Poet in Residence at the Wordsworth Trust (2004-5). She has also been a Visiting Lecturer at Sewanee University, Tennessee, and a Visiting Scholar at the University of New Hampshire. She lectures fulltime at Lancaster University in the department of English and Creative Writing.

In 2005 Intimates won her the Forward Prize for best first collection and was also short-listed for the TS Eliot Prize. The collection begins with the playfully seductive 'Look at These', which you can hear on this Archive recording. It is a flaunting of female sexuality - a self-conscious exposure performed by the narrator - and makes a lively opening to a book which goes on to be affected by grief, loss, and intimations of mortality. As Steven Earnshaw wrote: 'So much is at stake in Farish's poetry: relationships, self, the fragility in our construction and our passage in the world.'

The group of love poems which follow on from 'Look at These' make clear Farish's interest in female identity. Sexuality and desire are explored in poems whose first person speakers are by turns 'provocative and tender, passionate yet wary.' In 'Feathered Coyote', for example, although the supine naked woman at first sees herself through male eyes as 'a mythical creature, / flowers being made from my hair, / fine grass from my skin,' in the drama which ensues she crucially wrests control of language and of labels which have historically confined her.

The lakes, rivers and fells of Cumbria's Lake District dominate a significant number of the poems in this recording, as do private geographies of lakeland houses loved and lost. In 'Resurrection' the speaker declares: 'Somehow it became everything - / the cobble stone house.' 'To Whiteside' explores the power of childhood experiences of landscape and how they can shape adult longings and loves: 'here was a day / so full of promise that the scent of it / is in me still.'

Farish's language is lucid, musical as the poems open their doors for the reader to enter their softly lit rooms where startling truths are revealed. As Bernard O'Donoghue says: 'Nobody else writes with quite this variety of intelligence.' Farish’s voice is a beautiful medium for these deeply affecting poems.

This recording was made on the 10th January, 2008 at the Audio Workshop, London and was produced by Richard Carrington.

Helen Farish's Favourite Poetry Sayings:

"'Or was the point always / to continue without a sign?' " - Louise Gluck, from 'Matins'

"'We felt the past; it was, somehow,/ in these things, the front lawn and the back lawn,/ suffusing them, giving the little quince tree/ a weight and meaning almost beyond enduring' / " - Louise Gluck, from 'Quince Tree'

Selected bibliography

Helen Farish Reading from her Poems, The Poetry Archive...

Intimates, Jonathan Cape, 2005

Buy

Prizes

Forward Prize Forward Prize for Best Collection <i>Intimates,</i> 2005

Prize website

Links

Recordings

Helen Farish Reading from her Poems

1Look at These

2Auto Reply

3Feathered Coyote

4Under the Bridge

5Mount Mirtagh and Back

6In the Church of St. Joseph Prague

7Treasures

8Surgery

9The Accident

10Mesoplodon Pacificus

11Blindfold

12The Old King's Garden

13The Lighthouse of Nauset

14Picnic Spots

15Brathay

16Slater Bridge

17Custodian

18Allington Cross

19The Lorton Valley

20To Whiteside

21Odyssey

22Plum Island

23Kit

24Rue des Lions

25What Held Us There

26Programme

27Coffin Path Poem

2824th June 1955

29Newly Born Twins

30Recording

31China Dogs

32July

33The White Gate

34Manicure

35Airing

36My Father's Dressing Gown

37‘Grant Us Time to Read and Ponder'

38Outside the Baker's

39Resurrection

40Dad's Barn

41Posting

42Appellation

A tour of the Children's Archive with Jean Sprackland

There are so many good poems in the Children's Poetry Archive, it's hard to know where to start! I'd like to share...

Featured Guided Tours


Books & cds by Helen Farish