Abegail Morley was Highly Commended in this year’s Forward Prize. Her debut collection, How to Pour Madness into a Teacup was shortlisted for the Forward Prize Best First Collection.
Her collections, The Unmapped Woman and The Skin Diary are published by Nine Arches Press, and Snow Child and an ekphrastic collection based on the work of the German satirical painter, George Grosz, Eva and George: Sketches in Pen and Brush are published by Pindrop Press. She collaborated with artists, Karen Dennison on a pamphlet, The Memory of Water based on a residency at Scotney Castle.
She is one of the co-editors of Against the Grain Press, an innovative small independent poetry publisher dedicated to publishing challenging, well-crafted poetry.
The Skin Diary is reviewed in the TLS.
Her most recent pamphlet is In the Curator’s Hands and is published by Indigo Dreams Publishing.
Other poetry things include:
Named one of the Five British Poets to watch by The Huffington Post in 2017
Poet in Residence at Riverhill Himalayan Gardens, Kent
Canterbury Festival Poet of the Year
Commissioned poet on The Globe Theatre’s Autumn season “The Voice and the Echo”.
Collaborated with the artist Karen Dennison on The Memory of Water, a pamphlet based on her residency at Scotney Castle (Indigo Dreams Publishing).
She was a co-founder of EKPHRASIS and has worked with The Royal Academy and The British Library commissioning poets for events.
The Skin Diary
By an odd coincidence, the opening poem in The Skin Diary by Abegail Morley [Nine Arches Press] overlaps with Julia Webb’s prose poem sequence, being about an (imaginary) sister and even mentioning a Tiny Tears doll. But Morley goes on to deal with broader themes of love and loss. ‘The Archive of Lost Lives’ vividly conjures up acid-free boxes … packed with could-bes cracking like vertebrae. This archive contains grim certainties – lungs slaked with brackish water – but the next poem ‘B1077’ is shows us the uncertainties involved when breaking news of tragedy: Your voice on the phone / untangles down the line. I think of an asthma attack,/a hospital, but that isn’t it you say. Morley can make unexpected and unnerving observations about ordinary objects. In ‘If you stitch a woman’ armholes don’t whimper / if drawn too tight; ‘Brighton flat’ mentions being scared by the man on the ground floor whose handprints on the glass fit mine, / perfectly; and ‘Forgetting you’ speaks of silence scribbling on emulsioned walls and winds that threaten the letterbox. These physical descriptions – and the uncomfortable possibilities they suggest – add considerable weight to the emotional content of the poems.
The second half of the book contains two companions to ‘The Archive of Lost Lives’. Items in ‘The Cabinet of Broken Hearts’ have forgotten how to … /dedicate their lives to someone else; and the exhibits in ‘The Museum of Missed Opportunities’ suffocate under // the creak of onlookers, who lean their full weight / on the cabinets. (If the first of these fleetingly recalls Sue Rose’s Heart Archives it merely shows that completely original ideas are very rare!) Real or imagined objects from the past also figure in ‘Foundling’ which is part of a group about loss of/longing for a child. Some child’s shoes are discovered during renovation of an old house and later When the door shuts I know it’s her, / put out Madeira cake, biscuits, sweets / on a plate smaller than my fist, push it / to the table’s edge so she can reach. This tender and complex poem shows once again Morley’s dexterity in dealing with feelings via commonplace tangible objects. She pulls off a similar trick in a poem about a commuter train encounter which began when you mistook a sneeze for a wave [and] waved back. Speculating about the man she has never even spoken to, Morley ends by wondering what name they’ll grind // on your gravestone while she holds a black handkerchief to my face / in case I might sneeze or wave. In this fanciful little poem Morley deals with bereavement just as poignantly as in poems where she approaches the subject more conventionally.
Eva and George: Sketches in Pen and Brush:
The latest Pindrop Press offering is a poetic account of the life of the artist George Grosz told through the voice of his wife, Eva Peter. An affecting sequence, Morley impresses with a startling account of a private and public existence in a Germany transforming itself after the First World War. Stark images of despots and outcasts mirror the artist’s paintings, but Morley’s engaging account of passion and malice, and dramatic exploration of Grosz’s inspiration, adds more colour to a richly imaginative collection.
Poetry Book Society
“Morley skilfully captures the rawness of George Grosz’s acerbic images of despots and outcasts in post WWI Germany, while tenderly evoking a portrait of the man behind the art. In lucidly-voiced poems spoken by his wife, Eva Peters, she explores the passion and compassion that drove him. In doing so she reminds us of the casual and calculated malice we are capable of inflicting on each other in daily living, and that ‘We are those passers-by’. Heidi Williamson
“Abegail Morley’s sequence Eva and George, marked by both authenticity and originality, impresses with startling imagery and the striking juxtaposition of the private and the public. Her poetic account of George Grosz and Eva Peter’s life in the Weimar Republic is at the same time a compelling panorama of a whole era characterized by struggle, violence and radicalism.” Dr Wolfgang Görtschacher, Poetry Salzburg Review/ Poetry Salzburg
“Abegail Morley’s ‘Snow Child’ gifts us bold, unflinching, memorable poems, dazzling in their precision and clarity. This is a poet who faces life’s wonders, complexities and losses head-on, and invites us on a lyrical journey which will, at times, take our breath away.” Catherine Smith
“Intensely personal poems of love, desertion, obsession, written with great skill and delicacy yet with a disturbing sparsity and uncanny detachment. Snow Child is a captivating and impressive collection.” Malcolm Carson
“At the heart of Abegail Morley’s powerful second collection is a deep sense of loss. The poems work at countering that loss with tangible visceral images that both disturb and sing with their own gorgeousness. Morley has captured just what it feels like to be living inside a skin so thin, the sun burns right through in all its lucid glory.” Helen Ivory
How to Pour Madness into a Teacup:
“It has fallen to Abegail Morley to draw aside the veil suspended between the world we know and the unholy of unholies that lies beyond. We are shown the painted veil of everyday life, only to have it slashed with a knife before our eyes, allowing us to glimpse the horror that lies within, sometimes frightening but always lit with a strange visionary beauty. Morley’s poems are daredevil ambassadors to a savage place.”
“These poems are moving, sensitively written, compelling and well worth a read.”
“It is rare to find a collection that is so hypnotically filled with trapped desire. It is like being inside the head of Munch’s The Scream. It is like nothing else around: the poetry of rejection. That’s what marks it out and makes it so special… This is a brilliantly uncomfortable sequence and you won’t get it out of your head – no matter how hard you wash.”
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