In 2017 Neil Elder won the Cinnamon Press Debut Poetry Collection. His winning collection, The Space Between Us, has just been published. Having won this prize many moons ago I know how thrilling that feeling is when you open that letter! Congratulations. I do recommend entering this competition, so keep a look out on their site.
Here are some of Neil’s poems and and a few words from the amazing poets who have endorsed the collection.
Like My Daughter Says
If, like my daughter says,
you are now a million particles
orbiting in space,
may you keep on spinning.
Or else as I look out tonight,
I hope you fall like snow
and settle for a while.
In bed we make a butterfly:
as if the sheet’s been folded down the middle
we lie spine to spine, knees and elbows out at angles,
mirrored in the dark.
And before we sleep
you stare into our future while I stare into mine.
Or perhaps we make a Rorschach test –
tell me what you see.
Whenever we reached the marram grass,
away from parents’ eyes and pressing jumble
of the caravan park,
we knew we’d arrived.
Like corks out of bottles we raced off the dunes
in such hurry that I often missed my footing,
coming down in a buckled heap.
Leaning forwards, wrapping your hand around my forearm,
you’d always get me on my feet.
Then we’d tumble into the sea,
delighted by the shocking cold,
being sure to keep our shoulders under.
We’d drift in the current,
carried unknowingly along the shoreline,
have to swim back to where towels
made a strip of sand our own.
Now when I drift too far,
I search for you among the marram,
try to grab your hand,
try to beat the current.
At times tender and at times laugh-out-loud funny, Elder seamlessly negotiates anything from the terrors of a BBC fact file to an ancient jeep in Mombasa. The canny spaces between statement and inference and the flawless cadence make for a truly scintillating, cutting-edge debut.
The gift shop in ‘Thank you for visiting’ holds souvenirs from a man’s life – moments from childhood, artefacts of his body, desires both real and imagined – a conceit that spills out across this beautiful and accomplished collection, which seems to hold a man’s life up for examination. The poems explore domestic life, fatherhood and nature with great tenderness but often framed by an unease with the world, and a sense of important things being said, but being told ‘slant’, in the words of Emily Dickenson.
The Space Between Us mines the gap between aspiration and reality, appearance and truth, the said and the unsaid, but never takes itself too seriously. With wit and tenderness, Neil Elder explores love, loss and the absurdities of life on earth, bridging the chasm between disappointment and hope. As the narrator of his poem ‘Flatpack’ declares, “I’ve learnt the ways to improvise”.
To find out more about Neil and to purchase a copy of his book visit his site: