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Summers' poems, drawing on books and pamphlets, performance pieces and collaborations, as well as a long and previously unpublished sequence about the North of England, 'broken land'.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.
(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.
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.'
'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'
'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.'
'a big book, full of mineral-dense poems top sift and dig through slowly.'
Queensland Poetry Festival
'hilariously funny... and achingly sad.'
'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.'
'made me laugh and sigh and, like so few collections of contemporary poetry, choked me up on more than one occasion.'