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Lisa Kelly

  • About
  • Reviews
  • Awards
  • Lisa Kelly has single-sided deafness. She is also half Danish. Her debut, A Map Towards Fluency (Carcanet 2019), was shortlisted for for the Michael Murphy Memorial Poetry Prize 2021. She is co-Chair of Magma Poetry and a regular host of poetry evenings at the Torriano Meeting House, London. She has been studying British Sign Language (BSL) for several years and has a Signature Level 6 qualification in BSL. Her poems have been selected for anthologies, including Stairs and Whispers: D/deaf and Disabled Poets Write Back (Nine Arches Press) and the Forward Book of Poetry. In 2021, she co-edited What Meets the Eye, an anthology of poetry and short fiction by UK Deaf, deaf and Hard of Hearing writers for Arachne Press. She teaches poetry and performance, and is a freelance technology journalist. To escape noise, she walks and looks out for, among other things, fungi.

    Author photo by Lottie McCrindell.
    'Like a dose of Psilocybin, these poems are carefully measured to make new, synaptic connections whilst radically expanding the cellular domain of the page.'
    Kate Simpson, Poetry London
    'I love Kelly's ability to write about BSL, about caterpillars, and especially mushrooms with great wit and style. Reading these poems left me politically impassioned and in a state of wonder at the fresh way she regards her own body and the natural world.'
    Daljit Nagra, Poetry Extra, BBC R4x
      'There's a magic here that turns language into deep, moving, restless flesh, and like all the best poetry, it's operating at a cellular level. English is transcended, which is also what this is ”about - about language as a way of desiring, of feeling, of listening with the flesh. I can hardly think of a book in which I've experienced the body as an ecology, in such a felt way. I call this cellular listening, and it holds me somewhere deep, deep down, below human speech. At their best, what these poems do with language has something to do with losing your head and being erotic at the same time, from the same impulse.'
    Jason Allen-Paisant
    'In Lisa Kelly's second collection the speaker delves deeper into Deaf history and the nuances of Deaf culture, finding compelling connections (and networks) between the outer and inner worlds of deafness, BSL and between-ness. The House of the Interpreter is a brave and linguistically rich, complex collection of poems.'
    Raymond Antrobus
      'Kelly's words are a sensory joy. We are taken through time, space and dimensions - almost quantum leaping through her observations, whilst she remains rooted to the Earth and attunes "to life's vibrations" and nature. Turning the physical into metaphysical, the imagined into tactile possibilities and time into rabbit holes. She asks us to walk with her as she shows her defiant existence between two wholes, discovering and defining a whole of her own. Her poems place questions of identity in deafness, in language and finding ourselves not in the 'building of' but in the 'stripping away'. As if sailing upstream, Kelly's hands prove oars, plunging in rhythmically, pushing back against the resistance of societal expectations, guiding herself home. She doesn't need your permission or asks you to accept her, she's doing that for herself, but her words invite us to observe ourselves and each-other through a macro lens, and see for the first time.'
    Sophie Stone
     'First thing I love about Lisa Kelly's work is her incredible imagination - she tells the truth (about oralism, discrimination, injustice) but tells it in a way that's so lyrical it's instantly memorable. Which is to say: Kelly invents her own style, a blend of passion and invention.
          How does she do it?
          By bringing surprising tonalities, memorable rhythms, unpredictable turns, and often a story echoes that is both deeply personal and yet larger than life (because it speaks for all who had been silenced, yes, by oralism, by discrimination, yes, by injustice).
          The second thing I love about The House of the Interpreter is that this manifesto for D/deaf culture, shimmering with music and lyric abandon, is unafraid of discovery. Manifestos can be so flat, after all. Not this book. Kelly's journey is one of transformation: as soon told myself "I know what this poet is doing," the tables were turned, surprise entered the room. Here the ear becomes a mushroom, a whole bestiary opens up, with a moon of its own making, and a heron that flies like a paper aeroplane. Of "deaf sky," she writes, where "clouds are like my fingers". There's magic, in Lisa Kelly's pages, and no end of invention. I love this book.'
    Ilya Kaminsky

    'Lisa Kelly searchingly translates for us the intimate connections between language and the body, between symbol and experience.'
    Jane Draycott
    'Lisa Kelly's poems are every bit attentive as they are inventive. Whether on hearing and deafness, or amongst oysters and aphids, she writes with an instinctive and joyful aplomb, which is unafraid of stretching the possibilities of language itself.'
    Jane Commane
    Awards won by Lisa Kelly Commended, 2023 A Poetry Book Society Summer Recommendation (The House of the Interpreter) Short-listed, 2021 The Michael Murphy Memorial Poetry Prize (A Map Towards Fluency)
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