Praise for The Penny Dropping

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 no much more to this beautifully realised lyric collection of the kind that she is a recognised msater of. It is a masterpiece in both forms to a very unusual degree.

Bernard O’Donoghue


Helen has poems included in The Poetry Pharmacy Forever: New Prescriptions to Soothe, Revive and Inspire (Penguin, 2023) and The Poetry Pharmacy: Tried and True Prescriptions for the Heart and Soul (Penguin, 2017). She has also had poems in three Forward Anthologies, including Poems of the Decade.

TLS Review of The Dog of Memory

This book is Farish’s third – her debut won the Forward Prize for Best First Collection – and it is a confident performance. Farish’s poems have balance, and a smiling stride; they take their time (and seldom too much). Her eye for colour is striking. …As the book’s title suggests, the writer’s subject here is memory, which she credits in ‘The Dog Itself’ for providing her with the materials for creating verse. … ‘The Dog Itself’ emerges as a modest and unpretentious job description for the poet. This lack of pretension is also striking elsewhere in the collection.

Farish explores different types of memory in her poems, from the personal to the historical and hypothetical. ‘Athens’ describes the ignominious settlement in place before the Greeks arrived to fix the city in our collective subconscious. …The poem is a moving paean to the forgotten tribes of history – the lost villages, the uncelebrated communities outshone by later, showy upstarts. The funny poem, ‘Jane Eyre, a Sequel’ is a tightly written reimagining of the afterlives of the book’s main characters… this sequel is playful and visually lush.

Locations in the collection vary but Farish returns intermittently to her native Cumbria….’Calling’, possibly the strongest poem of the bunch, is a slip of a thing yet underlines how even just a lone syllable [‘lass’] can offer consolation. The word provides the speaker with ‘a home, / a geographic location’; better still, it resurrects the dead: ‘I hear my Dad, / Oh lass.’

The simplicity of Farish’s poetry, its unfussiness and brevity, shine through too in ‘Shift’, composed of four couplets. The poem describes how, as a child, the speaker’s parents took turns to be at home at night… The clean quartering of the poem into finger-like stanzas captures the seesaw rhythm of this common but rather saddening domestic arrangement. Though at times these poems speak too much of themselves, their economy, vividness and precision more than make up for their shortcomings. The Dog of Memory is an intriguing offering from Helen Farish, evidence above all of a poet still finding her way, working out what to do with the strange and beautiful things laid at her feet by her own capacity for recall.

Leaf Arbuthnot, TLS  14 July 2017

Reviews of The Dog of Memory

Poetry Review

Winter 2016

The title of Helen Farish’s new collection draws attention to her delight in quirky metaphor: the lover imagined as a library book, the woman as an idea, memory as a herding dog… Her locations are as varied as you’d expect from a well-travelled, sharp-eyed twenty-first century poet, but her native Cumbria is the source she constantly returns to, slowing the tempo to savour its place-names and define its subtle colours…A rare combination of elegiac feeling, humour, and earthy reminiscence characterises Farish’s poems.

Poetry Book Society Bulletin

Autumn 2016

The Dog of Memory is Helen Farish’s third collection, a deep and meditative ode to the power of memory. The book yearns ‘not to let anything go from this world’ (‘Remanence’) before it has been recorded by Farish’s pen. Her poems swirl, speed and then slow beneath the might of time, tracing time through place, history and literature. Clocks and calendars, moments and pauses usher us through the book, as Farish questions: how do we record our memories and write ourselves into history? The Dog of Memory handles time and memory with immense delicacy, imagination and wonderful attention to detail.

Guardian Poem of the week

‘The dog itself’ from The Dog of Memory was The Guardian’s poem of the week on Monday 3rd October, chosen by Carol Rumens. You can read her assessment, and an interesting debate in the comments section on The Guardian website

Sheepdogs are rarely treated as metaphorical beasts, and certainly not as bringers of poetic inspiration. In fact, I rather think that literary dogs, for all the instances of good and faithful service, are more likely to have malign than benign symbolic connotations. But the dog of Helen Farish’s new collection The Dog of Memory is no rough cynic but a bringer of gifts and delight. In a collection much concerned with memory as the retrieval of sense impressions, the sheepdog in this poem feels like a protective if excitable genius loci…
Read more 

‘Pastoral’ in the TLS

‘Pastoral’ from The Dog of Memory was published in the TLS on the 9th September, and was also a podcast for that week.

The podcast reading is Beginnings of life and the end of the NHS, broadcast on 7th September – I read at the end. Subscribe to the TLS podcast

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