new & selected poems

union brings together two decades' worth of Paul Summers' poems, drawing on books and pamphlets, performance pieces and collaborations, as well as a long and previously unpublished sequence about the North of England, 'broken land'. Summers is a poet of place and of travel, of exile and of home, combining the domestic and the epic, the personal and the political, the rhetorical and the confessional. He is a Blyth Spartans fan, a proud Northumbrian internationalist and a fervent celebrant of the idea of 'we' – of community, people and hope – of the notion of union itself.

Sample Poems


(home thoughts from abroad)

we are more than sharply contrasting photographs
of massive ships and staithes for coal, more than
crackling films where grimy faced workers are
dwarfed by shadows or omitted by chimneys, more
than foul mouthed men in smoky clubs or well–built
women in a wash–day chorus. we are more than
lessons in post–industrial sociology, more than
just case–studies of dysfunctional community.
we are more than non–speaking extras in
fashionable new gangster movies, more than
sad lyrics in exiles songs. we are more than
the backbone of inglorious empire, or the
stubborn old heart of a dying beast. we are
more than the ghosts of a million histories,
more than legends inscribed in blood, more
than exhibits in some vast museum, or the
unbought remnants of a year–long sale,
we are more than this, but not much more.

hammy the hamster's last words

this place smells
like a hamster cage!
can you not even
empty the ash–trays?
the neighbours complain
that i'm keeping them up
with the squeak of my wheel
but what else is there to do?
i haven't got a telly
with an earphone socket!
& i'm sick of seeds
i want some meat!
do you hear me?
i want some meat!
you're always asleep
when i'm wanting to talk
it's like banging your
head against walls!
i'll impale myself
on my water bottle tube.
that'll teach you!
do you hear me?
that'll teach you!


north shields, north tyneside
plump blooms stoop,
scorched by the reek
of a sycophant's breath.
we grasp the backward
flow of time; humming
the melody of our decay.
no need now
for crystal balls.
any of these
will do the trick:
a pearl of sweat,
a briny tear,
a prick of blood
that's robbed of red.


'Chilling and often funny, driven by love and anger, this is a striking testament to northern life in a time of dissolution and change.'

Sean O'Brien

'Summers is a sharp cartographer, and one with the accuracy to pinpoint the deft detail that locates wherever the poem is, then lets it ripple out like ordnance survey contours'

Matthew Caley

'Packed with irony, wit and a tremendously direct lyricism drawing on a sharp intelligence and keen observations of everyday street circus behaviour... this is poetry of the real kind, with a real voice and you'd be a fool to miss it.'

Barry MacSweeney

'a big book, full of mineral-dense poems top sift and dig through slowly.'

Queensland Poetry Festival

'hilariously funny... and achingly sad.'

Other Poetry

'blistering poetry, beautifully described, bitterly felt... a genuinely gifted, imaginative and ambitiously forceful voice... one of the most important poetry books to be published in the last decade.'

The Recusant

'made me laugh and sigh and, like so few collections of contemporary poetry, choked me up on more than one occasion.'