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A Map Towards Fluency

Lisa Kelly

Cover of A Map Towards Fluency by Lisa Kelly
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Categories: 21st Century, British, First Collections, Language, Women
Imprint: Carcanet Poetry
Publisher: Carcanet Press
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Paperback (112 pages)
(Pub. Jun 2019)
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(Pub. Jun 2019)
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  • Description
  • Author
  • Awards
  • Reviews
  • Shortlisted for the Michael Murphy Memorial Poetry Prize 2021

    A Map Towards Fluency
    , Lisa Kelly’s first collection, considers words, the power they impart, the power their absence withholds. Forgetting, mis-hearing, mis-remembering all challenge the imagination to find ways round and ways through. ‘The idea of fluency interests me – and whether we can ever claim fluency in any language.’ Her mother speaking Danish – which she cannot herself understand – is familiar and yet alienating: how Danish can she herself be when she cannot hear her mother’s tongue with understanding? Her own attempts with British Sign Language are another challenge, a form of translation of sense in the absence of sound. ‘I have to work hard to listen and this requires me to place you to my right side, to watch your lips, to watch your hands, to watch your gestures. How can form not matter?’ The poems touch on these themes in various ways, not least in what they do with form.
    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 ... read more
    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)
    'A Map Towards Fluency is an experimentation of the written language and a must-read for anyone interested in the amalgamation of the audible and the visual. it shows an impressive imagination and originality.'
    Maria Sjöstrand, DURA Dundee
       'For me, a great many debut collections tend to have a lot of filler in them, but not so with Kelly. The core strength of the work is impressively maintained from beginning to end. There are more ideas per page here than most collections of poetry could only dream of and it will be an absolute travesty if A Map Towards Fluency doesn't win a major prize in the coming year.'
    Richard Skinner, Write Out Loud
    'informed and thematically complex... [Lisa Kelly] loves every aspect of writing poetry: the language which forms it, the literature which precedes it, the art which inspires it, and the lives which make it personal and accessible.'
    Emma Desphande, The London Magazine
    '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
    Praise for Lisa Kelly '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
    'It's chock full of her trademark wit and invention - a kind of serious playfulness that disarms and charms. Typically, a Kelly poem is built around an intrigue, some curiosity of language and life that's at once uncomfortable and unsettlingly familiar.'
    Stuart Henson, The House of the Interpreter
    'This collection is as varied as it is powerful, as imaginative as it is self-possessed with a strength the reader can feel in the writing of a poet secure in their place in the world and confident enough to examine the failings and successes we all have. This is an incredible piece of work and must be read for its insightfulness and its beauty.'
    Jon Wilkins, Everybody's Reviewing
      '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

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