Shapeshifting for Beginners

Emma Simon


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Salt Publishing
15 September 2023
ISBN: 9781784632854
112 pages

From the publisher

Emma Simon’s wide-ranging work explores how strange and surreal the everyday can be and how real life and stories tend to bleed into one another. These poems – mysterious, mythic, magical – remain deeply accessible, while being witty and serious. An unforgettable debut collection.

Shapeshifting for Beginners offers us poetry of wonderful ideas and brilliant execution. I love the way these poems show us a familiar new world from new angles, following the flight of party balloons which escape into the sky, or celebrating reading through the unique scent of old books. The poems glory in the musical potential of language, and best of all wield such emotional punch, offering tender family portraits alongside meditations on the nature of life and death. It takes a special writer to create poems of immediate charm, which are good enough to renew the everyday world around us, showing us all its crazy beauty, strangeness and capacity for tragedy. The most enjoyable and exciting new collection I’ve read for ages.’ —Jonathan Edwards

‘Emma Simon is indeed a shapeshifter, but most certainly not a beginner. The power of her poems is in the subtly and range of her voices, so we wholeheartedly believe the tales of the mermaid who grew a pair of legs, the child turned leveret, the B-list starlet trapped in the palm of an ape. But for all these flights of fancy, Simon is really interested in human fallibility and frailty, beautiful ordinary moments, particularly in the lives of women and girls. In her poems there is a whiff of chlorinated public pools, the musk of old paperbacks, the heavy air of empty rooms – Simon brings these places of common habitation back to life.’ —Tamar Yoseloff

‘There is a sensory brilliance to Emma Simon’s poems, a metaphysical force, a yearning for the unexpected light that lights a fine metaphor. These are poems shaped by lockdown, revelling in the strange comfort and madness of our shifted daily routines, finding fairy-tales and horrors in the new hours we lost and found. There will be other collections and anthologies exploring this period, but I can’t imagine that this will be bettered.’ —Glyn Maxwell