Cover: Rowing Home, 1890 by Winslow Homer (1836-1910), private collection / The Bridgeman Art Gallery
‘These poems occupy the imaginative space that settles around the arc of a life asking to be understood. In its focus on death and loss, Breath is a celebration of the fullness of life. It marks time like music – from the retrospective staccato of ‘before’ to the tentative, opening crescendo of ‘after’. A song to a city, this island and the sea that circles it.’
In two short months in 2005, Ellen Phethean’s life was brought to a halt. In April she lost her close friend and long-time collaborator Julia Darling to breast cancer; then in June, her husband, composer Keith Morris, and close friend musician Joe Scurfield were killed in a hit-and-run incident. In despair and turmoil, all she could do was write: to make sense of the past and to come to terms with the present.
These poems chart the course of the last few years, reflecting on childhood, family life, the cultural landscape of Newcastle upon Tyne and how it all seemed to lead to these events. There is sadness and anger here, but also humour and candid observation. Journeys and water crossings are recurrent themes in poetry that explores love, loss and the life that insists we carry on.
Breath was shortlisted for the London New Poetry Award 2009–10. More details can be found on the Coffee House Poetry website.
‘These poems serve as markers through the process of grieving personal losses, which, because of the nature of loss, become universal. They are also very much a celebration of life.’
Sally Barker, The North
‘The core of the book is an extraordinarily brave and painful sequence recording the
journey through grief which Phethean travelled after her partner, the composer Keith Morris, was killed by a hit-and-run driver in 2005.’
Andy Croft, Morning Star, 16 November 2009.
‘The handling of these bereavements, the skillful restraint of words which let the anger and pain just shimmer through, is breathtaking.’
Valerie Laws, Mslexia, April 2010
‘There are, as you would imagine, a lot of memories; they are sharp and beautifully observed. [...] The best poems are about moments, which, while specific, have a universal appeal.’
Keith Richmond, Tribune, 11 December 2009
‘These are exquisitely formed poems, which show a consummate degree of craftsmanship . . .thoughtful and moving lyrical poems about love, anger and loss’
Julia Gaze, Assent 64/3
Breath costs £7.00 and was published in October 2009.
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