Provocative and tender, passionate yet wary, the highly charged poems in Helen Farish’s first collection testify to the complex nature of relationships with lovers, with family and with the self. The powerful love poems, attuned to the expression of a female erotic, speak openly about the emotional and the sexual; the body itself becomes a rich and compelling site of enquiry.
But the ‘intimates,’ according to ‘The Sea Speaks,’ are also ‘disarray and fear.’ Posted throughout the collection like sentinels, poems on the death of the poet’s father draw her back home where grief mingles with surprising moments of grace or redemption. Whether the encounter concerns sudden loss or sudden blessing, constant throughout is a boldly embodied lyric ‘I’ voice generously inviting the reader in.
Poised at life’s mid-point, these haunting, haunted poems negotiate their emotional freight in carefully crafted forms which mediate between exposure and guardedness. Expertly charting the geographies of love and desire, the histories of childhood and grief, Intimates introduces a new poet of originality, honesty and singular power.
Poems from Intimates
Select to read poems in full:
The strong one, she will thinkNewly born twins
she is God, that she can pull back
life from where it was going.
I’m so glad I didn’t knowThe white gate
the last time was the last time
we went through the white gate
I’ve kept them hidden till nowLook at these
under loose shirts, Dad’s jumpers.
Praise for Intimates
These are intelligent, brave pieces that make you wince and smileJackie KaySunday Herald Books of the Year
A debut poetry collection by a poet whose voice is already mature, assured and at times very funnyClaire HarmanEvening Standard Books of the Year
Intimates is a passionate book. Its theme is ancient (the unthinkable pain of lost love) and Farish thinks hard about both pain and happiness. Much of Farish’s art lies in concealment. The economy of her poems and her conﬁdence in their means enable her to speak with convincing directness where other poets might lapse into gesturesSean O'BrienSunday Times
Farish uses the ﬁrst-person speaker with a moving immediacy… or deploys it with considerable inventiveness and ingenuity…conveying a moment of being in a handful of pared, precise images, and she can sometimes astonish with a single lineJane GriffithsTLS
It is the thread of anxiety running through these short, smart poems that stays with us. Beneath a shell of brittle confidence, the book is a chronicle of loss. The overarching narrative of the painful, disintegration of a relationship is punctuated by deeply felt poems on the death of her fatherSarah CrowneThe Guardian
Intimates also picked for The Times Poetry Books of the YearRachel Campbell-JohnstonThe TimesAll my reviews