The Penny Dropping

Helen Farish


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Bloodaxe Books Ltd
25 April 2024
ISBN: 9781852249960
80 pages

From the publisher

The Penny Dropping offers an account of a cherished relationship from first meeting to eventual break-up. Distance gives the writer a retrospective clarity from which she does not flinch despite its challenges (‘Look at me,’ laments the speaker in ‘Pretty Woman’, ‘stepping back into the dress, / pulling up the side zip, smoothing it down, / as though that’s all it took.’).

But ultimately poems such as ‘No Point Now’ undo their own argument that the penny has dropped years too late, for the process of re-evaluating the past bestows on it a new and altered value. In ‘Films We Saw at The Phoenix’, the speaker recalls the lovers in one film whose relationship is also at an end, but who look back and ‘spread it out tenderly, the tapestry / of their love which they alone could see'. The immediate power of these poems is such that much is at stake on every page.

Helen Farish won the Forward Prize for Best First Collection. She has also received a Poetry Book Society Recommendation and been shortlisted for the T.S. Eliot Prize.

'The Penny Dropping, Helen Farish’s verse-sequence about a love relationship, could be called a page-turner if it weren’t for the fact that every page is a lyric poem of such compulsion that it unfailingly and hauntingly detains the reader’s attention. As a whole, it has all the coherence of a novel; but there is so much more to this beautifully realised lyric collection of the kind that she is a recognised master of. It is a masterpiece in both forms to a very unusual degree.' – Bernard O'Donoghue