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The Sleepwalker at Sea

Kelly Grovier

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Categories: 21st Century, American
Imprint: OxfordPoets
Publisher: Carcanet Press
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(Pub. Aug 2011)
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(Pub. May 2011)
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  • The map I’m after is scarred – creased
    where half the land’s been folded back,
    forgotten, and half has wiped the palms,

    the frozen eyes of Napoleon or Petraeus.
    Why, you ask, do I seek such a thing –
    elbow-deep in the neighbour’s rubbish?
    Why else: we’re lost, of course.

    from 'Map'
    The poems in The Sleepwalker at Sea tread a fluid line between dream and wakefulness, memory and loss, presence and longing. Leave a house and it suddenly fills with ‘the unseen’; consult ‘The Book of Clues’ and discover only ‘ghostly hints’ of a self you’ve left behind. Linked by their restless displacement, pacing haunted spaces, these are poems that question what it means to be in the world and seek answers in lost rooms, missing sketches, disappearing fragments.

    By turns meditative and playful, romantic and philosophical, The Sleepwalker at Sea strides an invisible path through streets of strangers, in search of ruined altars, buried candles, and ‘the whispering galleries of the dead’. Here, deer ‘dissolve / into a tapestry of mist’, a butterfly ‘measures / the universe’s weight’, and the soul ‘sculpts itself in frostlit air’.

    Cover painting Jindřich Ulrich, The Sleepwalker, 2010. Oil on wood. Private collection. © Jindřich Ulrich, reproduced by kind permission of the artist. Cover painting:


    The Guest
    The Other City
    To Carry the One
    The Thread
    The Book of Clues
    Adding Up
    The Frame
    Face Blindness
    Wan Hu’s Flying Chair
    ‘It’s turtles all the way down’
    Exact Change
    At Spring
    Common Ground
    Malá Strana
    A Butterfly in the British Museum
    Fra Angelico
    The Vanishing Hand
    Permanent Collection
    Bird in the Air Pump
    Giacometti’s Walking Man
    The Ruined Statue of a Saint
    The Ratio
    Buried Candles
    The Microscope
    Tom Paine’s Bones
    A Tortoise in the Chelsea Physic Garden
    The Meadow
    Old-Fashioned Things
    The Lost Room
    The Glass Armonica
    The Carnival Tent
    The Sleepwalker at Sea
    A Little Night Music
    Recent Acquisitions
    Pancho Villa
    Reading in Bed

    Kelly Grovier was born in Grand Rapids, Michigan and educated at the University of California, Los Angeles. He received his doctorate from Oxford University in 2005 after being awarded a British Marshall Scholarship. Co-founder of the scholarly journal European Romantic Review, he is a regular contributor to the Times Literary ... read more
    Praise for Kelly Grovier 'The 'poetry is precise and well crafted' with 'delicate touches and nuances' that 'reveal a delight in the poetic treatment of sensory expression and cast Grovier as a poet acutely attuned to the intricacies and balances of light'.'
    The New Welsh Review
    'Wonderful precision, technical ambition, and the ability to surprise the reader'
    Poetry London
    'This is a poet of both truth and beauty'
    Times Literary Supplement
       '...Grovier's poetry at its best is formidable: the marriage of music and mind.'
    Alison Brackenbury, Poetry Wales
     'Grovier's poems are often amusing and childlike... The narrators may fret, but Grovier's craft stills poem and reader inside a "slip-knot of stars"'.
    New Welsh Review
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