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ISBN 978-0-9567359-6-6
First published September 2012; 64 pp
paperback with endpapers; 198 x 129 mm

£8.99
Click here to read a pdf excerpt.
Stephen Knight’s two previous collections, Flowering Limbs (1993) and Dream City Cinema (1996), were both shortlisted for the T. S. Eliot Prize. His novel Mr Schnitzel (2000) won the Arts Council of Wales Book of the Year Award. Born in Swansea, he now lives in London.
 
Stephen Knight  The Prince of Wails
 
                  Long shadows for much of the day
     then the lighthouse throwings its light away.

     Big Sky. The Long Wave Band.


Rain, a northerly wind, the sun low, ‘everyone packing up everyone going home’ – a place which, for all the formal ingenuity and playfulness of Stephen Knight’s approaches and despite the cool authority of his ‘level, heartbreaking voice’ (Joseph Brodsky), remains endlessly receding, haunted, unforgiving, its familiarity itself a form of strangeness.

Through the ebb and flow of the poems, two rites of passage – the death of a father; late fatherhood – are the constant watermark.

‘His poems have that kind of humour that is simply an alternative to a cry of pain. They are edgy, full of doubts, nostalgic but unsentimental. They leave you wondering how and why you have changed.’
     – Bernice Rubens

‘Behind its plain cover and apparently jokey title, this is a wonderfully rich and thought-provoking collection … Every poem combines a compression of feelings and expression with such lively experimentation that it is a pleasure to spend time in its company … I believe Knight is exploring the intense physicality of memory and grief, how they fit into the lives of the living, into the future when daughters/grand-daughters, for example, have grown tall … The last poem, called “99 Poems”, is astonishingly rich and intriguing: just the title makes this small book feel massive! Why 99? It is an elegy, so perhaps Knight’s father died at age 99, almost as long-lived as the centenarians we just met in “On Turning Fifty” and worthy of commemoration, worth staying up late for! In any case, the poem is a collection of 99 lines borrowed with great affection from elegies and epitaphs and maybe other sources too, perhaps film, across the centuries, and arranged by first letter from A to Y, starting with the beautiful line (possibly Thomas Hardy?) – A face that, though in shadow, still appears – and ending with the simple physicality of Your hands. Both images – the dead who re-appear and the father’s hand which holds his child’s – recur throughout the book, gaining power along the way. And it can be no accident that this last poem ends on the letter Y, not Z: there is no final letter in the alphabet of this wonderfully haunting collection.’
     – Chris Beckett, londongrip.co.uk (full review
here)

‘The erosion and attrition of the sea – time made visible – together with the corresponding comfort of elegy and lament are at the heart of Stephen Knight’s third collection, with its by now characteristic suburban desolation. And yet Knight’s voice extends well beyond what Joseph Brodsky called “the outskirts of Larkin  country”, if only because he is haunted, as Larkin was not, by old stories of sad kings. . . . “On Turning 50” is a joyful wake in which the poet suggests he and his daughter stay up all night “as cosy as the streets are cold and coaly” while “Why You Cannot Go Downstairs” modulates movingly from a series of tender jokes – “Because the clocks/ need rest as well” – into a heartfelt cry of love – “Because it’s early/ because it’s late./ Either way way, don’t leave us yet”. These feelings fill out the sails of Knight’s remarkable closing elegy for his father, “99 Poems”, in which a chorus of cries rises in collective lament.’
     – Andrew McCulloch, Times Literary Supplement

‘. . . here is that distinctive voice, that tone: wry, darkly conspiratorial, the deadpan wit hovering on the edge of a joke, the precision that alternates with lively bursts of Swansea dialect. But despite the “native” exuberance (hence the apt irony of the title), there is always a beautiful reining in, the many sorts of refusal that constitute his style. The textures are remorselessly realist and evoke a suburban childhood; the colours are those of a fading Polaroid from the 70s: crumbling shops, the Mumbles pier, a candlewick bedspread, a fizzing sea, a doughnut smell, “the snails that clung to our pond’s greasy slopes”. We are familiar with this terrain from his earlier books, but now there is a darker tone, an uneasiness has crept into the noistalgia . . . This is one of those books that will resist readers who don’t like irony. Its beautifully bleak, sepia palette may put off some. But anyone like myself who is charmed by subtlety will love this book.’
     – Amy Wack,
Poetry Wales

‘Playfulness . . . functions as a kind of counterweight to the profound sadness that informs a significant proportion of the poems. The shade of the poet’s dead father haunts the collection: he’s there as a silent revenant standing with the poet’s daughter beside a garden pond in the volume’s prefatory poem, while the final poem is a lament for the “gentle man [...] who could not stay awhile”.’
     – Jem Poster, Poetry Review

‘Knight’s poems are often affected by time, the seasons, the weather: externalities about which we can do nothing. His voice is frequently plainive, but a certain wit and verve also shine through. He can write about the much-written-about with an alluring and necessary freshness . . . The elegies in this collection are especially fine, tightly rendered and loaded with beautiful futile hopes.’
     – Rory Waterman, Poetry London

From reviews of Dream City Cinema (1996):
‘Knight’s is an urban world, edgy and strangely lit, at its most vivid when described in the echoey full rhyme that he handles so well.’
     – Helen Dunmore, Observer
‘A masterpiece in miniature, packed with surprisingly enthusiastic and musical treatments of entropy, whether universal or personal, by a top craftsman with a quirky and disconcertingly loveable voice.’
     – Robert Potts, Guardian (Books of the Decade)