Jacob Polley was born in Carlisle in 1975. He was poet-in-residence at the Wordsworth Trust in 2002, the same year he won an Eric Gregory Award. During this time, he completed his first collection of poems, The Brink (2003), a Poetry Book Society Choice that was shortlisted for the T.S. Eliot Prize. Critics were swift to praise its subtle lines and inventive images; what the Guardian described as "a certain cutback virtue" pervading the poems, indication of Polley’s "belief in a restrained language and the transforming possibilities of description and metaphor." Nowhere is this more apparent than in the startling opener to this Archive recording, 'Smoke'. Recalling his father's stove in the family home, iron doors "like a black bank safe's", the poet imagines his unborn self, "wondering if I too / had hung in darkness". As throughout Polley's reading, the poem's rich sibilance and vowel sounds, delivered in his distinctive Cumbrian accent, vividly bring its scenes to life.
This recording also includes work from a second book, Little Gods (2006): an altogether more formal, incantatory collection guided by traditional lyric inspiration. As with his award-winning first novel, Talk of the Town (2009), there is much uncanny psycho-geography in these newer poems: from the "bluer home-time dark" of 'October', to the "rockslides caught in metal nets" and "bare earth and bridges" of "the lumpy, guileless country" mapped out in 'You'. But perhaps its finest moments come when, as in 'Decree' and 'The Cheapjack', Polley blends his formal deftness with a wholly contemporary voice, forging unforgettable lines both direct and poignant. In the fullest sense, this Archive recording gives us the chance to experience what the TLS has called Polley's "gift for the unexpected".
Jacob Polley's recording was made on 18th November 2009 at the Audio Workshop, London and was produced by Anne Rosenfeld.