Denise Riley

Denise Riley’s last collection was Say Something Back.

Four Poems

Denise Riley, 1 July 2021

‘Please supply a biographical note’

A natal error.Steadied by pamphletsand brilliance of the babies.In leaping joy alone.Why do some will themselves to stone.Now is it time for night to fall.

And home lamenting bore it

Hose down the bloody lamb.Shear its woolly skin to the bone.Penitential rain, cleanse my remembering.Mop me in blue scrubs.Mother of mercy, when we were thin!


Poem: ‘Slow Burn’

Denise Riley, 8 November 2018

Happiness, I consider in my papery season, did zigzag toward me until later I got hated, in the guise of that demon I was held to be.

Now I forget much, in my white fog pierced by rare if brilliant rays. My beard careens into spidery threads, long and light on the wind.

Let these scant years keep lucid, unclouded by the familiar sorrows, and released from their rattle of verdicts, whether...

Still looking for lost people – look unrelentingly. ‘They died’ is not an utterance in the syntax of life Where they belonged, no belong – reanimate them Not minding if the still living turn away, casually. Winds ruck up its skin so the sea tilts from red-blue To blue-red: into the puckering water go his ashes Who was steadier than these elements. Thickness Of some...

Poem: ‘A Part Song’

Denise Riley, 9 February 2012

In this podcast Denise Riley reads ‘A Part Song’. The full text is available for subscribers.

i You principle of song, what are you for now Perking up under any spasmodic light To trot out your shadowed warblings?

Mince, slight pillar. And sleek down Your furriness. Slim as a whippy wire Shall be your hope, and ultraflexible.

Flap thinly, sheet of beaten tin That won’t...

Hands Down: Naming the Canvas

Denise Riley, 17 September 1998

The literary strength of this country rests in the safe keeping of its advertising copywriters, a species properly deserving respect. In recent years a gin manufacturer ran a series of cinema commercials. The screen, shaded bottle-green to evoke the green-bottled gin, would be captioned something like ‘frogs leaping on a baize table on a grassy field’. These ads might have been produced by Alphonse Allais, the humorist of the late 19th-century burlesque salons of the Incohérents in Paris.‘

Echo is a fangirl

Ange Mlinko, 3 December 2020

Denise Riley argues with her identities and ‘identity’ in general: she is unhappy with them, casts them off only to find them stuck on again in the morning. She is also our pre-eminent dialectician...

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