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Say Something Back Paperback – August 1, 2016
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About the Author
Denise Riley is a critically acclaimed writer of both philosophy and poetry. She is currently Professor of the History of Ideas and of Poetry at UEA. Her visiting positions have included A.D. White Professor at Cornell University in the US, Writer in Residence at the Tate Gallery in London, and Visiting Fellow at Birkbeck College in the University of London. She has taught philosophy, art history, poetics, and creative writing. Denise Riley lives in London.
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Under the answering sky
I can manage being alone,
can pace out convivial hope
across my managing ground.
Someone might call, later.
What do the dead make of us
that we’d flay ourselves trying
to hear them though they may
sign at such close loneliness.
I would catch, not my echo,
but their guarantee that this
bright flat blue is a mouth
of the world speaking back.
There is no depth to that blue.
It won’t ‘bring the principle
of darkness with it’, but hums
in repose, as radiant static.
Her poems display a sharpness and a crispness of language, perhaps not surprising for someone who has not only written several poetry collections but also several books about language and words. (The collection even includes a poem entitled “And another thing,” which both is and isn’t about that expression I have so much trouble with.)
She includes short poems of seven lines and longer poems; one long poem comprises 20 smaller poems. Her range of subject and metaphor is impressive – seasons, nature, people, trees, Greek myth, fables, and geography are only a few she turns her eye on, with the grief theme as a backdrop.
Riley has published several previous collections of poetry, including “Marxism for Infants” (1977), “Dry Air” (1985), “Mop Mop Georgette: New and Selected Poems” (1993), “Stair Spirit” (1992), “Selected Poems” (2000), and a long essay that combines prose and poetry, “Time Lived, Within Its Flow” (2012). She is also the author of “War in the Nursery: Theories of the Child and Mother” (1983); “The Words of Selves” (2000); “Am I That Name: Feminism and the Category of Women in History” (2003); and “Impersonal Passion: Language as Affect” (2005). She is currently a professor of poetry and the history of ideas at the University of East Anglia.
“Say Something Back” was nominated for the Forward Prize for best poetry collection in 2016. It’s a collection filled with poem of carefully considered subject and theme, almost a kind of plea to listen to and hear each other, expressed with a precision and vividness of language that is remarkable.