Carcanet Press Logo
Quote of the Day
an admirable concern to keep lines open to writing in Ireland, Scotland, Wales and America.
Seamus Heaney


Helen Tookey

Cover of Missel-Child by Helen Tookey
10% off eBook (EPUB)
10% off Paperback
Categories: 21st Century, British, First Collections, Women
Imprint: Carcanet Poetry
Publisher: Carcanet Press
Available as:
Paperback (80 pages)
(Pub. Jan 2014)
£9.95 £8.96
eBook (EPUB) Needs ADE!
(Pub. Jan 2014)
£9.95 £8.96
To use the EPUB version, you will need to have Adobe Digital Editions (ADE) installed on your device. You can find out more at Please do not purchase this version if you do not have and are not prepared to install, Adobe Digital Editions.
  • Description
  • Excerpt
  • Author
  • Contents
  • Awards
  • Reviews
  • Missel-Child

    The lady of the moon is in travail,
    her white face waxen as the missel-fruit.

    The gravelled path gives way to broken angles,
    burials of water. Follow it.

    Creep into the hospice of the yew,
    its pale lying-place. Curl up there. Wait.
    According to the seventeenth-century herbarium The Garden of Eden, a ‘missel-child’ is a mysterious being found beneath a mistletoe-covered tree – a changeling, perhaps, ‘whereof many strange things are conceived’. Helen Tookey’s first full collection of poems starts from the missel-child to explore archaeologies of identity, place and language. She is a formally inventive writer, using collage and syllabics, exploring elegy and myth. The poems in this book create a space in which language enables something to be said and also to be shown.

    Then is it true 
    At Burscough, Lancashire 
    Poem for Sabine 
    Among Alphabets 
    Autumn Child 


    Funeral and Fox 
    At the Castle 
    Water, its Voicings 
    In a Richer Mine 
    Shilling Visit 
    Among the Gods (Persephone) 


    Male Nude by R.B. Kitaj 
    Portrait of a Young Woman 
    With Joe on Silver Street
    Der Tod in Venedig 
    The Hardened Criminals of Tomorrow 
    When I was quite small I would sometimes dream 
    Miss Yamada Has Gotten Married 
    A long war, and now the returning 


    Fosse Way 
    Hollow Meadows 
    Persephone in Adiyaman 
    Rheidol Valley 
    In the dying days of the year we walked 
    Secret Name 
    Climbing the Hill at Sunset 

    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-Chil d (2014, shortlisted for the Seamus Heaney ... read more
    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)
    '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
    Praise for Helen Tookey 'Tookey is a deft poet, working with ekphrasis, the graphic qualities of text and lyrical prose to create ecopoetry that is unlike any other.'
    Sarah Westcott, ARTEMISpoetry
    'Formal variation - itself a kind of textual curiosity - is a source of innovation throughout the book, but it is the 'quiet'-seeming prose blocks that are especially good at holding bolts of unease in their narrative folds.'

    Tiffany Atkison, The Poetry Review
    '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

    'The poems are finely crafted and closely observed, describing somewhat unsettling, dream-like landscapes and places of memory, deserted streets in European cities, or taking artworks and objects as inspiration and points of departure... [The] rejection of borders is a fitting ending to a collection that challenges formal and aesthetic boundaries, and engages with a range of European artistic influences to offer a vision of 'belonging as not-belonging' in the face of certain and chaotic political times.'

    Sophie Baldock, The Manchester 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
You might also be interested in:
Share this...
The Carcanet Blog Why Are You Shouting?: James Womack read more Sidetracks: Bei Dao, translated by Jeffrey Yang read more Polkadot Wounds: Anthony (Vahni) Capildeo read more Ambush at Still Lake: Caroline Bird read more On a New Blue Poets Plaque: E.J. Scovell by Michael Schmidt read more Mary O'Malley: The Shark Nursery read more
Find your local bookshop logo
Arts Council Logo
We thank the Arts Council England for their support and assistance in this interactive Project.
This website ©2000-2024 Carcanet Press Ltd