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Helen Tookey

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  • Helen Tookey was born near Leicester in 1969 and now lives in Liverpool. She studied philosophy at university and subsequently worked in publishing. She currently teaches creative writing at Liverpool John Moores University. She has published two previous poetry collections with Carcanet Press, Missel-Child (2014, shortlisted for the Seamus Heaney Centre for Poetry First Collection Prize, 2015) and City of Departures (2019, shortlisted for the Forward Prize for Best Collection, 2019). She is collaborating with writer and musician Martin Heslop on text and sound work developed from a residency in 2019 at the Elizabeth Bishop House in Great Village, Nova Scotia, some of which can be seen here. Since 2009, Helen has been involved with a Merseyside-based project focused on the Wirral-born novelist Malcolm Lowry, and has co-edited (with Bryan Biggs) two books on Lowry: Malcolm Lowry: From the Mersey to the World (Liverpool UP, 2009) and Remaking the Voyage: New Essays on Malcolm Lowry and In Ballast to the White Sea (Liverpool UP, 2019). She is currently working on a creative non-fiction book about her engagement with the work of Lowry and Elizabeth Bishop and, through them, with place and landscape.
    'Continually enquiring and observing, Tookey's poetic voice is consistently tentative, aware of precariousnesss and the possibility of disintegration. She can see the world with a painter's eye... a haunting and compelling collection'

    D. A. Prince, Orbis

    'In the Quaker Hotel will change the way you perceive the world around you; this is ecopoetry with a psychologically effective perspective shift. Tookey liberates us from the boundaries of our humanness.'

    Ellora Sutton, MsLexia

    'There is an apocalyptic fear coursing through these poems, electrifying them with an often heart-breaking and urgent apprehension of ecological crisis. Through visiting and revisiting, Helen Tookey examines places with a sharp eye, both philosophical and painterly, asking us to attend to their vulnerabilities, their mystery. Behind these carefully made poems, Tookey gives us access to something infinite and disturbing. Delicate, eerie, anxious, prophetic and cinematic, In the Quaker Hotel is a haunting record of our times.'

    Seán Hewitt, author of Tongues of Fire

    'Narratives describing strange, sometimes dreamlike, episodes from a female protagonist's childhood dominate the second section of Helen Tookey's four-part collection of poems and prose poems, City of Departures ... The narrative is clear and secretive at the same time: it prompts questions.'

    Carol Rumens from The Guardian where 'In the Rose Garden' was poem of the week on 3rd Feb 2020

    'For Helen Tookey, place becomes a series of intense encounters with the territories of European artists, in which their settings or personalities - and the poet's - mingle or erode... The book combines poems and prose in a compelling zone of stark atmospheres and richly observed interiors.'

    W. N. Herbert, The Poetry Review

    'Reading this book can feel like sliding into that sunken world. Strange things float beneath its beautiful surfaces'
    Tristram Fane Saunders, The Telegraph
    'The city in Tookey's City of Departures is full of the excitements of history and chance, and the chances taken to make a kind of radiant sense of the world, in all its breakings-down and might-have-beens, which is exactly what, time and again, these beautiful poems do.'
    Jacob Polley
    'Missel-Child is an exceptional volume. Some of the subject-matter is found, some comes from a powerful and intelligent imagination and from keen observation. All is embodied in a language that is sensuous and strong.'
    Jeffrey Wainwright
    'The diction is unexpected, apt and deeply satisfying, focusing the reader not only on the words chosen, but also on the ghosts and resonances of those that might have been there.'
    Carola Luther
    'Her quiet, precise poems have a genuine eeriness. She has interests in both archaeology and psychology, but knows intuitively that they aren't separate -- that when we dig up the past it's our own roots we are looking at.'
    Grevel Lindop
    Awards won by Helen Tookey Short-listed, 2019 The Forward Prize for Best Collection (City of Departures) Short-listed, 2015 Seamus Heaney Centre for Poetry Prize for First Full Collection (Missel-Child)
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