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The Art of Falling

Kim Moore
Publication Date: 
Tuesday, April 14, 2015
Average: 4.5 (1 vote)

Winner of the Geoffrey Faber Memorial Prize 2016
Shortlisted for Lakeland Book of the Year 2016

‘These poems are moving and magnificent. Kim Moore deserves a wide audience.’ – Bel Mooney, The Daily Mail


Kim Moore, in her lively debut poetry collection, The Art of Falling, sets out her stall in the opening poems, firmly in the North amongst ‘My People’: “who swear without knowing they are swearing… scaffolders and plasterers and shoemakers and carers…”. ‘A Psalm for the Scaffolders’ is a hymn for her father’s profession.

The title poem riffs on the many sorts of falling “so close to failing or to falter or to fill”. The poet’s voice is direct, rhythmic, compelling. These are poems that confront the reader, steeped in realism, they are not designed to soothe or beguile. They are not designed with careful overlays of irony and although frequently clever, they are not pretentious but vigorously alive and often quite funny. In the first section there is: a visit to a Hartley street spiritualist, a train trip from Barrow to Sheffield, a Tuesday at Wetherspoons.

The author’s experience as a peripatetic brass teacher sparks several poems. The lives of others also feature throughout, including a quietly devastating central sequence, ‘How I Abandoned My Body To His Keeping’: is the story of a woman embroiled in a relationship marked by coercion and violence. These are close-to-the-bone pieces, harrowing and exact.

The final section includes beautifully imagined character portraits of John Lennon and Wallace Hartley (the violinist on the Titanic), as well as Jazz trumpeter Chet Baker and the poet Shelley and other poems on: suffragettes, a tattoo inspired by Virginia Woolf’s A Room of One’s Own, and a poetic letter addressed to a ‘Dear Mr Gove’.



We hosted a Q&A with Kim as part of the Seren Stay-at-Home Series. Watch it back in full below:



Review by Steve Whitaker, The Yorkshire Times

Saturday, March 24, 2018

Capturing the essence of Kim Moore's assured debut, The Art of Falling, is writing in water. She is elusive. And she telepaths emotion without any sense of a transference. There is some genius in a poetics which connects the reader to a well of introspection without a direct conduit.

The received effect is remarkable and is most clear in the kinds of poem, and there are many here, which express a fragility in detachment. 'Followed' describes a snowbound occlusion where helpless inertia...

'The traffic lights flashed
red/amber/green and every bus
brought shuddering to its knees.'

...dislocates and endangers a delicate emotional fabric of connection. Remarkable, because the reader finds themself drawn towards a narcotic and near-visual silence which is lachrymal in its intensity. The urge to cry flows down some cosmic antennae fixed to no coordinate beyond the unexpected sadness of words.

And the feeling has less to do with meaning than inference; Moore organises words in such a way as to yield atmosphere rather than interpretation. Perhaps we should not be surprised to find this in a poet who deals in abstractions: striving to find markers, her narrator gives methodical regulation to the physical accoutrements and idiosyncrasies of habit. A relationship in 'Your Hands' is recalled through locators - 'filters in their plastic sleeves / or delicate papers spread like wings' - but not in conversations. The 'Shouting' of rage is remembered as if 'from some distant shore'; it remains for the poet to fill the void with words, and she proceeds in a silence which is acknowledged as often as she strategises the idea of repetition in an ironic effort to countermand it.

Moore's poems amount, often, to catechisms, repeated mantras trying desperately to control equivocation, to understand, to get a grip on sometimes palpable, sometimes insubstantial wolves of memory. It is interesting that we are urged to look for something beyond the inventories of extraneous suggestion as though her subjects, themes, were intangibles, given prismatic depth only in squeezed revelatory drips.

We are drip-fed emotional pain through a kind of withholding of the material catalyst: starving her audience of the three-dimensions of a human cause, Moore inhabits the vacuum with her own mantras of anxiety, like an aphasic replacing lost nouns with an efflorescence of adjectives. And the received effect is ingenious and persuasive, literally so in 'Your Name', which recounts the febrile narrator's inability to nominate the cause of her pain - 'the shame and blame and frame of it'. Later in an 'Encounter' which is, characteristically, not an encounter, but rather a testament to the power of imaginative recall to shape and re-shape the past, Moore's protagonist holds the remembered, possibly compound, image of (an)'other' in view in order to unify a memory which is as insubstantial as the dust of a moth's wings, as though it had 'never been there at all and all that was left / of you was a taste of smoke in the air.'

Uncertainty, in Moore's ironic grip, is natural to the expression of the thematically offside: the strange, the inexplicably violent, and the unexpected. 'The Messiah, St Bees Priory' describes, in a series of self-contained sestets, a choral rendering of Handel on a winter's day whose snow muffles memory, but cannot blindside the events of 2 June, 2010, when Derrick Bird killed twelve people in a shooting frenzy in the towns and villages of west Cumbria. 

Moore's deft organisation of the poem begins and ends in a Priory where the cold's bitterness draws people into a protective circle like a wagon train. The effort of will required to 'forget that afternoon' in a chorus of 'Hallelujas', is overwhelmed by the contrast, and the gunman, who remains hidden behind the horror, is adumbrated in metaphors of anonymous foreboding: 'when the sun / was a hand on the backs of their necks, / when villages, hardly talked about before / were the names on everybody's lips.'

Figures - I say figures because it better defines anonymity - are often invisible behind the flying boots of recrimination and emotional outburst, as though they are too painful, or intransigent, to contemplate. That the reader is encouraged to draw their own inference as to character is a central motif here. And not always depressingly. 'In Praise of Arguing' is an hilarious celebration of the knee-jerk kinetics of falling out, which hides the relationship's protagonists amongst the airborne appliances, in a house that can no longer 'cope':

'And the doors flung
themselves into the street
and flounced away
and the washing gathered
in corners and sulked.'

In fact, emotional tectonics - the falling and rising of great arcs of descent and aspiration - create parabolas of mood that come close to yielding a definition of Moore's major concerns here. Where her narrator is not immersing herself directly in the apex and nadir of personal experience, she is the eloquent succubus who drains vicarious emotional charge through the suffusion of histor(ies). The joyfully plausible arc of the eponymous poet's curious, wilful and sometimes destructive creativity is caught at a clatter in the explosive 'Shelley', whilst the neatly divided sestets of 'John Lennon' hymn another form of outrageous wilfulness, whose satisfaction ultimately demanded a form of deracination. The boy 'who was born without brakes' -

' dreamt each night of climbing
in a plane above Liverpool, circling higher
and higher until the city disappeared from view.'

Elsewhere, the brief and deeply affecting 'Wallace Hartley' captures the singular stoicism of the bandleader who went down with the Titanic, through a conflation of images - cinematic, documented - which enable the turning of the emotional antennae noted earlier, towards a 'sky full of flares and stars' of the imagination whose shimmering brightness is about to be extinguished as the 'immense and black' hull disappears beneath the waves.

Control in Moore's fine volume amounts to an art form. The intractability of her material demands attention to structural considerations and the broad sections she employs here underwrite a skill for subtle organisation which, in turn, only half-disguises a tendency to describe intuitions through observation of detail. 

The assertion of 'self' into the maelstrom of conflicting moods and tones here is at once strident, conditional and reflective. Where she is not serving a directly political agenda - 'Mr Gove' is a lyrically persuasive 'open letter' to the former Secretary of State for Education on what encouraging creativity means during a period of cuts to the Arts in schools, whilst the resonantly haunting 'Suffragette' re-imagines the bravery of the early protestors in the form of catechistic couplets - Moore's narrative drive may be as unexpected as a knife between the shoulder blades. 

Tonal ascents and descents are needles which swing, sometimes shockingly, from pole to pole. 'How I Abandoned My Body to His Keeping' is conceived in dark, unrelenting metaphors and counter-intuitive images of birds which cannot provide comfort against the darkness of an abused trust. The suggestion of a rape in 'stop, please stop' and the profoundly moving, self-lacerating final stanzas, are preceded by a genuinely frightening line which sums the nature of fear-inertia and makes an irony of the idea of 'ownership' in the poem's title: 'If I asked / him to leave he would smile.'

At the other end of Moore's emotional spectrum lies 'Falling' which cleverly reverses conventional poetic approaches to expressions of love by investing the room in which the loved figure has a near catastrophic fall, with anthropomorphic life. Framed amongst the bathroom furniture 'standing guard' over the prostrate figure, the poem is an affirmation of life, love and thankfulness in crisis. And it contains the most metaphorically-persuasive description of a stunned, presumably epileptic, victim that I have ever read: 

'your eyes rolling, wild as a horse, your body
an empty house abandoned to the wind and rain.
When I lift your head, there's no resistance.
It moves like water at the bottom of a tilted bowl.'

It is unusual to find a glossary of a poet's titular theme included in a book, but Moore gives a fine freeform rendition of the variations of 'descent' in her poem 'The Art of Falling', whose psalm-like exposition describes the literal and figurative meanings of falling in metaphors of emotional contraction and recovery. An alkali to the acid of a life's sometime retrogression - 'not falling apart at the sound / of your name' - the poem finds something approaching hope in the wisdom of acceptance.

Moore's identification, here, of 'the correct way to fall / loose-limbed and floppy', casts a possibly unwitting nod in the direction of Alf Bridge, Mancunian climbing pioneer of the 1930s, and deviser of a technique for falling off rock faces relatively safely. And in amongst speculative images of climbers landing, unscathed, on all fours, lies a grander figure for the art of survival, which is, in the end, Kim Moore's poetic mandate.

Review by Alice Lyons, Poetry Ireland Review

Thursday, December 1, 2016

Anne Carson was in Santa Fe last week care of the Lannan Foundation to read from her new book,
Float, and was interviewed on stage afterwards by Michael Silverblatt, whose author-interview
show Bookworm (on KCRW in LA, available as a podcast on their site) is an oasis in the sorry
desert of the US airwaves. Silverblatt had interviewed Anne Carson on enough previous occasions
to be prepared for curtness on good days and, on bad days, a Dylan-esque impetuousness, which is
annoying. (If you don’t want to be interviewed, don’t do interviews, right?) But Silverblatt disarmed
the poet with informed enthusiasm and love, which she warmed to. In fact, he drew her out more
than I’ve ever seen her be drawn out with a question about her style, which he called ‘tight-lipped’.
She agreed. Said it ran deep in her family, from her banker father who uttered two words to her on
the way to her wedding, to a deaf uncle who lived as a hermit in the Canadian woods and who
supposedly only uttered five or six sentences in his life. Then Silverblatt said, ‘The writing is not
ABOUT something. The writing IS something’, and I watched people in seats around me scribble
this down in their Moleskins.
Which I did, too, though I wrote it next to the handsome photo of Carson in the Lannan reading
series program, printed on lavishly heavy card stock that I’d been handed when I took my seat. The
ABOUT versus IS writing continuum seemed a fitting lens with which to look at these three books,
all of which succeed in various ways with writing that most assuredly IS something but could easily
be oversimplified by an emphasis on more superficially and readily-grasped ABOUT qualities of
You could say there is a lot of ABOUT in Kim Moore’s debut collection The Art of Falling. ‘My People’,
the book’s second poem, locates Moore among the white working classes of the North of England,
‘people who swear without realize they’re swearing’ ; ‘scaffolders and plasterers and shoemakers
and carers’. As the publisher’s notes on the book jacket describe, the poet ‘sets out her stall firmly
in the North’, which could be dangerously quaint and superficial (the colorful people and language
of the North!). But Moore brings an unflinching eye that rescues the book from essentialising her
community and herself as a member of it. The best poems in The Art of Falling see Moore both
implicating her speakers in and extricating themselves from their origins.
The poem ‘Tuesday at Wetherspoons’ is indicative of the delicate balance Moore manages
throughout the book. The poem’s title alone conjures up a Northern working-class set-piece in a
dismal chain pub-restaurant, and the first few lines sustain that expectation:

All the men have comb-overs,
bellies like cakes just baked,
risen to roundness. The women tilt
on their chairs, laughter faked

But the poem’s speaker is confused by the women’s behaviour. When all the men get up to get drinks
from the bar, the women silently arrange the cutlery on the table and don’t speak until the men
return. Why? Ominously, the speaker plays footsie with a man,

patience in his eyes who says you can

learn to love me, ketchup
on the hand that cups my chin,
ketchup around his mouth,
now hardening on my skin.’

The last verb of the poem does some heavy-lifting, darkly conjuring sexual violence and prepares
us for the powerful, most arresting writing in the book, the central section ‘How I Abandoned My
Body to His Keeping’, written in the voice of a survivor of a violent relationship. These poems
confidently leave behind any self-consciousness of what they might be ABOUT and dig deeper into
the urgent, struggling articulations of a victimized person. Still embedded in her consciousness is
the tang of the perpetrator-partner’s leather jacket, the threat in his hands. The language tries to
disentangle itself from him, tries to gather a kind of agency in the act of coming to, of
simultaneously realizing and denying what is happening: ‘it is sometimes painful/to have a knowing
at your throat/that clever raven/but better than the alternative/something small and bruised/the
raven knows most things/it remembers nothing/this really about the trees/which saw it all.’ This is
powerful writing.

Gill Learner, Artemis Poetry

Sunday, May 15, 2016

Kim Moore's first full collection is, in contrast, full of northern directness. "I come from people who swear without realising they're swearing" (My People) but also, with her experience as a music teacher, some unusual subjects: "Imagine you are spitting tea leaves / from your tongue to start each note // so each one becomes the beginning of the word" (Teaching the Trumpet) and music is a recurring theme. Some poems are surreal: "Whatever went wrong that summer / started with the redwings that fell from the sky / ...I watched the trails of planes and realised / you had a redwing in your chest instead of a heart" (That Summer). Wolves slink throughout: poems from her prize-winning pamphlet from Smith/Doorstep, If we could speak like wolves, are included. 

The title poem, playing with the word "falling which is so close to failing / or to falter or fill; as in I faltered when I heard / you were here" foreshadows Section II, an oblique but distressing account of the slow elimination of the self in an abusive relationship: "...I gave up on all the things / I was promised and let myself to sadness" (In That Year) and "Remind me, O body, of the way / he moved when he drank, that dangerous silence" (Body, Remember). But by reducing the tormenter to The World's Smallest Man and then writing about him with a kind of detachment, the poet regains her individuality. The poems in this section haunt me. The wide-ranging final third has references to a new love and people as disparate as Virginia Wolff, Emily Davison, and, not entirely surprisingly, Chet Baker. It will be interesting to see how this considerable talent develops. 

Review by Paul D. Dawson

Tuesday, May 10, 2016

The Art of Falling is an impressive debut from Kim Moore who has previously been published in TLS, Poetry Review, Poetry London and elsewhere. She has an MA from Manchester Metropolitan University and is already a winner of several awards, including the Independent Book of the year for her pamphlet, If We Could Speak Like Wolves, poems from which also make an appearance in this collection.

The Art of Falling is split into three parts, and though varied in style and subject, a central theme of falling does seem to thread through all of the poems. ‘And the Soul’, the first poem in the collection is inspired by a line from Plato in which Moore starts off, ‘And the soul, if the she is to know herself / must look into the soul and find / what kind of beast is hiding.’ The poem is lyrical, well structured and it struck me as a beautiful way of kicking the collection off, and it left me wondering, what kind of beast is hiding between Moore’s words? Poetry often renders painful memories into form, and in the poem, ‘My People’, she doesn’t evoke whimsical memories, but rather a more deliberately sardonic and realistic take on her people’s character and history. In the first part of the collection she covers many subjects, ranging from regret and wanting to turn back time, to learning an instrument, to the life of scaffolders, seeing a psychic, and finally to the poem that gave the collection its name. ‘The Art of Falling’ is a sublime poem which brilliantly plays off the theme of falling and showcases Moore’s ability with rhythm, line and form.

The second part of the collection entitled, ‘How I Abandoned My Body To His Keeping’, is themed around violence and hate, and the desperate desire to escape it. In these poems, Moore channels a desire to be more powerful and safe from the physical powers of a man. In the poem entitled, ‘The World’s Smallest Man’, such desires are best demonstrated in the lines, ‘till you are less than a grain of salt / so small you are living on my skin. / And, once I breathe, I breathe you in.’ These poems deal with raw emotions and of human frailty in the face of violence. In the title poem of this section I was impressed by the descriptive power and stark images evoked by such lines as, ‘The birds could have fallen from the sky like stones and I wouldn’t have noticed.’ Fittingly the section is finished off with a poem entitled, ‘Human’, in which Moore imagines the man who has nothing in his life but the words that were inspired by his own cruelty, ‘I imagine you reading about yourself in the safety of your car,’ in which Moore closes, ‘I want you to read these words, I try to make you human.’

In the last section of the book we have the poem, ‘If We Could Speak Like Wolves’, in which Moore compares the complexities and simplicities of animal nature against those of human beings and marriage, ‘if I could rub my scent along your shins to make / you mine.’ The standout poem in this section for me was, ‘The Dead Tree’, in which Moore talks of a tree’s soul released by a final lightning strike, and the wonder of where that lost soul might end up, ‘Here is the tree, struck by lightning / five terrible times and it survived / until the last, when it dropped / every leaf it had and would ever have / down to the ground in fright.’ The last poem in the book is, ‘New Year’s Eve’, which is a wonderful way to end the collection, leaving the reader to reminisce about their own New Year’s Eve, and the renewed dreams and future hopes associated with that time of year, ‘the waiting for midnight, talking to strangers / as what’s left of the year drags itself off.’

From the surface this is a very accessible collection of poems, yet Moore isn’t afraid to dip her feet into the colder subjects of the human condition, and many of her poems are deceptively deep. Her voice is direct, uncensored, and her observations of the world satisfyingly bleak and full of truths, though not free of hope. The mention of stones in a few of the poems in this collection made me think about falling and the weight of human emotion, a weight that gravity will always bring back to the earth, so falling therefore is perhaps a fate no one can escape. This is an impressive debut from Moore and one that begs repeated reading, for poetry of this quality should certainly rise, not fall.

I received this book in a Goodreads giveaway and this is my honest and unbiased review according to FTC guidelines.

P. D. Dawson blog

Review by Bel Mooney, Daily Mail

Friday, April 22, 2016

It’s always exciting to discover a new poet, especially one who speaks of experiences beyond the usual province of poetry.

In one, Moore identifies My People: ‘I come from scaffolders and plasterers and shoemakers and carers, the type of carer paid pence per minute to visit an old lady’s house.’

With blistering honesty she says: ‘In the time of casual racism, some of my people would and will join in.’

This is real life — and poetry needs its truths. In its sometimes pretentious world, this is refreshing.

Most impressive is a dark, passionate and painful sequence called How I Abandoned My Body To His Keeping, which evokes the terror and anguish of a woman caught in a controlling and violent relationship.

These poems are moving and magnificent. Kim Moore deserves a wide audience.

Review by Alison Brackenbury, Under the Radar

Monday, February 15, 2016

I come from people who swear without realising they’re swearing.
I come from scaffolders and plasterers and shoemakers and carers […]

This is from the bold music and myth of Kim Moore’s past, and present, ‘A Psalm for the Scaffolders’, a poem which falls for a page to one final full stop. But although the lines frequently run on, the poem is not breathless, but poised like the scaffolders themselves:‘balanced like tightrope walkers’. Its own scaffolding is knowledge: ‘the bracing’, ‘their steel / toe-capped boots’, ‘three boards at all times’. Moore balances danger, ‘that long slow fall’,with exhilaration: ‘the wind whistling / in their ears, the sky in their voices’. Her poem of praise is held together by measured repetition, and by the dignity and restraint of its ending:

a psalm for those who work too long
a psalm for my father, a psalm for him.

Poetry is always in danger of becoming detached from the details and dangers of the practical skills on which our lives depend. I think that Moore’s clear-eyed and urgent ‘Psalm for the Scaffolders’ is a masterpiece.
Moore’s own skills and unforced humour enlighten ‘Teaching the Trumpet’ (to schoolchildren). ‘I say: remember the man who played so loud / he burst a blood vessel in his eye? This was / because he was drunk, although I don’t tell / them that’. But the audience for her poetry is not made up of children, and Moore’s lines frequently walk on the wild side: ‘The women / of my people are wolves’. In the brief, free-wheeling lines of ‘In Praise of Arguing’: ‘the vacuum cleaner flew / down the stairs like a song[…] and the walls developed / scars and it was a glorious, / glorious year.’
The poems at times suggest that to be animal offers more than to be human. ‘If We Could Speak Like Wolves’ has its own intimacy: ‘the stubble and grace / of your throat’, ‘more complicated’
and ‘more simple’ than human marriage. ‘If I could […] bite heart-shaped chunks / of flesh from your thighs’… But any sense that theexuberance of Moore’s poems glamorises violence is balanced by her haunting central section. ‘How I Abandoned My Body To His Keeping’ is a series of poems where a speaker reflects upon a previous, violent relationship.
In these, Moore’s characteristic energy and myths darken: ‘And in that year my tongue spoke the language / of insects and not even my father knew me.’ The accounts of attacks are indirect: ‘a black / eye fades from dark-blue to violet’. But the accounts of psychological terror are unforgettable. There are poems of fearful dialogue: ‘Remind me, O body, of the way / he moved when he drank’. Even the present tense is not safe from flashbacks: ‘when I’m afraid / it’s only then I think of him’. ‘It was luck / that got me out of it’ asserts the speaker (modestly?). But these poems take their reader into a trapped, rarely charted darkness.
Yet the surrounding poems are often in the voice of a deadpan observer of the strangest situations, as in ‘Hartley Street Spiritualist Church’. ‘The first hymn is Abba: ‘I Believe in Angels. / No music because Jean has forgotten the tape’. The speaker in ‘Barrow to Sheffield’ travels beside a man who ‘woke up / and shouted I’ve
got to find the sword’. In her confident and abrupt endings, Moore’s timing rivals that of the best-known comic poets.
Moore’s intensity and energy are often both telling and funny. ‘Dear Mr Gove’, in tumbling lines, discusses the ‘problem of Matthew’, ‘who cannot read or write too well’ but has ‘perfect pitch’. ‘I do not know how to measure this […] Mr Gove please help us’. Her love poems can be matchless: ‘ox-eye daisies, tall as your knees and fearless’.
The poems of The Art of Falling are fearless. Moore’s diction is spare as speech. So a tremendous weight falls behind her chosen words of praise or rapture, as in the final poem, when the New Year comes in ‘with its arms full of love’. There are more good poems filling Kim Moore’s first collection than many poets will produce in a lifetime.

Review by Laura Tansley, The Cardiff Review

Tuesday, December 1, 2015

The first poem in Kim Moore’s debut speculates how a person’s soul might come to know itself as an animal; a galloping horse maybe, or an indifferent cat. “If it be a wolf, let it howl,” she writes. Chances are it’ll be all of these things and more over the course of a lifetime, and Moore encourages us to embrace this from the start of The Art of Falling, a collection divided into three parts.

Part one establishes the reader firmly in the North West (Cumbria, Sheffield, Bowness, Barrow), with poems about the everyday that are also out of this world. Moore gives us a ‘Psalm for the Scaffolders’, praising their dexterity and praying for their safety. Lessons for the trumpet learner (both devoted and lax) and the trials of ‘Teaching the Trumpet’ come from Moore’s own experience as a brass band tutor. Walking the dog ‘After Work’ on a dreich November night captures the anxiety of new winter, predictable and yet always foreign. A visit to a ‘Hartley Street Spiritualist Church’ prompts a battle between the real and a want for the surreal. The Cumbria shootings weave through internal and external landscapes in ‘The Messiah, St Bees Priory’.

The title poem is an exploration of falling in all its guises. Falling down, fallow and pregnant: the word is attached to so many different experiences but for Moore it’s always a stomach-drop; a moment that takes us away from ourselves. She works with this idea throughout the collection and something as familiarly unspectacular as a ‘Tuesday at Weatherspoons’ becomes both comforting and disorientating. We know the homogenous bar, the publicans who frequent our local, and the type of man who might take a woman’s face in his ketchup-covered hands but we are still surprised by his actions.

Part two or ‘How I Abandoned My Body To His Keeping’ is a powerful sequence that explores a violent relationship and how it disturbs a person’s sense of self. The ‘I’ in this section becomes feathered in fear. Language slips for this individual, becomes ineffective as a mode of expression because they are “translated by violence”, and so the experience is related through sounds, smells, or the insistent falling of snow. The eponymous poem is an affecting sestina, realised through the fragility and freedom of birds, the dull heaviness of stones and an observing moon, images that reappear throughout this section.

The final third of this collection contains portraits of characters such as John Lennon, Shelley and Chet Baker, alongside poems that sing with Moore’s wit and grace. ‘Picnic on Stickle Pike’ captures an accidental glimpse of a middle-aged couple engaged in a sexual act: 

the woman was a long-necked bird, bending 
its proud neck to feed, and the man lay
like an expensive table. 

A bathroom slip in ‘The Fall’ leaves a second-person ‘you’ unconscious, head moving “like water at the bottom of a tilted bowl”, and finally coming-to next to the bath, “faithful creature”, the sink and toilet “standing guard”.

Moore’s poems are accessible; the reader can easily locate themselves within their structures, but this accessibility (in topic or theme) is due not to their simplicity but Moore’s deftness as a poet. Form and language collaborate to give her work an enviable ease, flooring the reader fast with adroit humour and drama, making the reading experience both nimble and jarring as we move from the lightness of a trumpet lesson to the darkness of endured abuse in a violent relationship. Moore’s is an exciting and full first collection.

Laura Tansley has a PhD in English Literature. She lives and works in Glasgow.​

Review by Matthew Stewart, Rogue Strands

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Driven repetition, Kim Moore's The Art of Falling

Take a long, deep breath when reaching for Kim Moore’s first full collection,  The Art of Falling (Seren 2015), because you’ll be tumbling with her from the first page onwards through her intoxicating verse.

Moore’s signature poetic technique is repetition. Her work is riven with it and driven by it. There are certain poems that even make explicit, conscious nods towards its use, such as “A Psalm for the Scaffolders”:

“…a psalm for the scaffolders
who fall with a harness on,
who have ten minutes to be rescued,
a psalm for the scaffolder who fell
into a clear area, a tube giving way,
that long. slow fall, a psalm for him,
who fell thirty feet and survived,
a psalm for the scaffolder
who saw him fall…”

Moore’s strengths in her employment of repetition are various. She repeats phrases with slight variations such as in the tense of a verb (“fall” and “fell”), which invites the reader to home in on those small changes. Meanwhile, the repeating of whole structures such as the poem’s title empowers the piece as an invocation. And then there’s the building of clauses in the continual use of “who”, generating a pace that combines with the afore-mentioned invocation to lend this poem a religious charge. In other words, form and content fuse superbly.

Poem after poem, repetition crops up:

“..a fall from grace, a fall from God,
to fall in love or to fall through the gap…”

“And if it be a horse…
…And if it be a swan…
…And if it be a tick…”

“A curse on the children…
…a curse on the boy…
…a curse on the class teacher…”

“And if you saw her…
…and if she set fire…
…and if she threw…”

“…as if one person can’t carry this with them
and be unchanged, as if I could speak seagull…”

And I could quote umpteen more. However, it’s important to underline that Moore is far from being a one-trick pony. There is variation in tone, of course, alongside a deft narrative touch, a gift for delicious turns of phrase and a fabulous ear, as befits a music teacher. Nevertheless, repetition rules for much of the book, creating the sensation of a relentless emotional thrust, charging onwards, seeking an authentic core.

In The Art of Falling, that core is to be found in “How I Abandoned My Body To His Keeping”, a sequence about  “a relationship marked by coercion and violence”. This sequence lies at the heart of the collection. I could highlight any one of several pieces for their power, for their capacity to move and affect, but a personal favourite is “His Name”. Here are the first four lines:

“Because they tried to make me say your name,
the shame and blame and frame of it,
the dirty little game of it, the dark and distant
heart of it, the cannot be a part of it…”

And there’s that repetition again, in Moore’s gorgeous use of the definite article. Of course, it’s even better in the context of the poem as a whole, but you’ll have to get hold of a copy of The Art of Falling to see what I mean. Just keep in mind that piece of advice I gave earlier: don’t forget to take a long, deep breath when snapping the spine.

Review by Sarah Westcott, The Literary Loper

Monday, June 1, 2015

Kim Moore's The Art of Falling (Seren) was just a joy - a tough, tender book packed with a variety of forms and emotional clout.
The middle section, How I Abandoned My Body To His Keeping, is particularly strong. Moore writes of domestic violence and the perils of attachment and entrapment. Every poem in this section takes an oblique, surprising and often redemptive note.
This was a collection I dipped into with glee because the poems give so much to the reader in imagery, music and a generosity of spirit. They are emotionally open, yet also musical and peppered with surprising metaphors ('my heart was a field').
Moore sometimes writes quite long, almost breathless phrases using repetition of clauses that are woven through the text. A Psalm for the Scaffolders, for example, contains the phrase 'a psalm for' 11 times.  (Incidentally, she is a brass teacher and I wonder if the experience of playing long sections of musical notation is reflected in this form)?
Because she is such a deft poet, these clauses are expertly crafted into the body of the poem, making them even stronger pieces of work. Scaffolded if you like with a sort of invisible wiry strength.
This is one of those rare books that I feel I could give to any non-poetry reader with the aim of converting them to poetry's undeniable charms.

Review by Noel Williams, Antiphon

Monday, June 1, 2015

I have two confessions. Firstly, I find this book enthralling. Secondly, I had a very small involvement in its creation, Kim Moore being a good friend as well as a good poet. I was really pleased that she asked me to have a look at the manuscript, and genuinely excited by the work I found within it. (In the event, most of what I suggested has had no impact on the book!) I find her approach, her language, her emotion, her intensity and her originality compelling. As such, then, you can’t read what follows as an objective review, though I do intend it to represent as fairly as possible what I think of the collection. Rather than essay a properly objective appraisal, which would be impossible for me, I try here to outline here a few of the reasons why I think it’s particularly impressive. I do so not only because of my own enthusiasm for the book, but because I think it represents the kind of poetry we all should be aiming to write.

Let me begin with the poems which I find least exciting. These are poems explicitly about other people – John Lennon, Shelley, Chet Baker. Here the poet projects herself into another’s skin, and it’s a measure of her empathy and imaginative understanding of her materials that she can produce strong, solid interpretations of these subjects and offer new views of familiar subjects. If the entire volume were poems of this kind, we’d be admiring her ability to create a book which can switch voices, change perspective, find quirks and glimmers of a different slant, as if she were painting portraits.

But The Art of Falling offers much more than this. At one pole are her sprinklings of wit – the poems with a twinkle in their eyes, which nevertheless emerge from passionate feeling. ‘The Trumpet Teacher’s Curse’, for example, is a tongue-in-cheek curse on children who abuse their musical instruments, which clearly inverts her love for teaching brass. Her ironic appeal to Michael Gove as Secretary of State for Education, captures the exasperated frustrations of a dedicated music teacher starved of resources by philistine policy. These are very entertaining poems, fun, but they also make her point solidly. Whilst there’s no political agenda in this collection, the politics of both teacher and poet do seem pretty clear. Again, if the entire collection was made up of such amuse bouches, it would please any appetite.

But it is the opposite pole that’s the real strength of this volume. Not Moore’s wit, not her empathic understanding of others, but the poet’s passionate interrogation of her self: the poet in the world, the woman at times who finds herself elevated by feeling beyond literal description or gripped, clipped, oppressed by the darkness of a destructive relationship. The superb sequence, ‘How I Abandoned My Body to His Keeping’, at the heart of the volume, relives a hard relationship, one which, it seems, was abusive, certainly cruel:

And in that year I gave up on all the things
I was promised and left myself to sadness
(‘In That Year’)

I knew fear was just a thing
to be bargained with, inside my feathered heart
was another feathered thing, born white but slowly
turning black
(‘When I Was A Thing With Feathers’)

with the taking and giving of pain, when I’m afraid,
it’s only then I think of him, or remember his name.
(‘When Someone Is Singing’)

Moore’s poems, generally, have emotional subjects. She rarely sets out to tell us things. She does not set out to capture the glint of sunlight on the tip of a swallow’s wings or the exact shape of a leaf in a fountain, though they may perhaps do such things incidentally. No, these poems set out to sing. Many are as sonorous as The Song of Songs, the cadence of emotion emptied onto the page, irrespective of the literal sense of her sentences. What can be made of what she writes comes not directly from their meaning, but the accumulation of sound, rhythm, image, impression and emotion, creating a sensual verse which is closer to ‘experience’ than ‘meaning’.

As such, some of these poems are risky. They’re risky because feeling is laid bare on the page, as if these were not poems but the voice of a soul, the artery pumping dark blood into sunlight. They’re risky because the imagery, somewhat Lawrentian, somewhat biblical, somewhat archetypal, could veer dangerously close to cliché if baldly catalogued (wolf, moon, darkness, blood) yet Moore’s real skill is in exciting the connotations of such vocabulary. For her they are not words to be manipulated into effect, they are expressions of felt emotion, a litany, liturgy, canticle, prayer. Her work is musical throughout, psalm-like, with a strong reliance on repeated structures to achieve parallelisms which are then subtly varied, with a voice that is rhythmically and emotionally compelling:

And if it be a cat, find some people
to ignore, but if it be a wolf,
you’ll know from its restless way
of moving, if it be a wolf,
throw back your head
and let it howl.
(‘And the Soul’)



REVIEW by Sheenagh Pugh

Sunday, May 17, 2015

This is a debut collection, uneven but with plenty of vim and interest in its language and concerns. The mid-section is the one most obviously themed, concerning a violent and abusive relationship; the other two sections are more disparate, though the third contains several poems either "after" named people or titled for them.

In her best poems, she assembles objects and events with a sure sense of their significance – in "I'm Thinking of my Father" a man haunted by his brother's impending death feeds a fire obsessively:

             and he doesn't care about splinters
or safety, as long as the fire gets higher.

All the stone lions and grave little gnomes
in their cheerful red breeches are waiting
and the lamp that's addicted to heat
flickers on, flickers off, and the lawn sits

in its shadows and dark and its falsehood
and the ending begins with its terrible face

Another impressive poem is "Red Man's Way", its language apparently uncomplicated but working, with its rhythms, perfectly:

             I feel full,
as if one person can't carry this with them

and be unchanged, as if I could speak seagull
and they would come cursing, articulate,

their wings the colour of sky.

The whole of the second section is powerful, finding some telling images for the relationship - "The World's Smallest Man", in which the speaker imagines the "you" figure smaller and smaller, until the poem ends in a finely achieved ambiguity:

till you are less than a grain of salt
so small, you are living on my skin.
And once I breathe, I breathe you in.

And in "Body, Remember" she takes the Cavafy poem where he urges his body to recall both the pleasures it has known and all those it hasn't, but she uses it inventively by having her speaker, instead, resolve to remember the feel of danger. 

I said it was uneven and there are certainly individual poems that fall below par, notably "Tuesday at Wetherspoons", where apparently "all the men have comb-overs,/bellies like cakes just baked" – what, all? That's just lazy stereotyping. But what worries me a little more is a rhetorical technique, which thanks to contact with some recent A-level students, I now know is called anaphora: the repetition of a word or phrase at the start of every sentence or new proposition. For instance, in "When I Was A Thing With Feathers" the operative word, which defines all the syntax, is "when":

when feathers pierced my skin growing from within,
when I tried to let my head fall to my hands and found
only wings, when I was able to fly

In other poems, words like "and", "this", "by", or phrases like "some people", fulfil the same semantic function. Now there's nothing wrong with this in any individual instance, but by my count about a third of the poems use this device, and then it starts looking less like a rhetorical device and more like a method of composition. Again, we all have ways of coming by a poem, and this one can be as good as any, but when used too often it can start to look like an exercise. It's awfully easy for poets to develop tics, to get into habits of automatically using the same ways of working, and then they need to steer clear of the comfort zone for a while. I don't think any of the poems I most admired in the collection used this technique, but that might be partly because after the third or fourth time it cropped up, it was feeling predictable.

But the main impression the collection left with me was of language used with considerable skill and power, and often also surprise. Those who think the "myth-kitty" outmoded and unusable might care to reflect on how it is renewed in "Translation":

Don't we all have a little Echo in us, our voices stolen,
only able to repeat what has already been said:
you made me do it, he says, and we call back do it, do it.

User Reviews

Sarah Johnson's picture

Sarah Johnson

Average: 4.5 (1 vote)

REVIEW by Natalie Charlesworth

An excellently ordered collection. From the entrancing opening poem ‘And the Soul’, through an exploration of the North and its people into the darkly intriguing poetic sequence ‘How I Abandoned My Body To His Keeping’ Moore displays a talent for language that is not afraid to toe the line with the darkness.

There are poems in this collection which simply sing. The titular poem ‘The Art of Falling’ being just one amongst many that really gripped me. This would have reached 5 stars save for the what I have come to think of as the ‘Brass’ poems. They didn’t seem to reach me as well as the others.

I liked the wolves that kept realising odd mournful howls here and there – often at the end of a poem, often unexpected. At first they seemed a little peculiar – like an image that should have been cropped out when the rest of its imagery disappeared in an earlier draft. Yet as the collection gathered pace they started to make sense, to be something that I searched for.

I read this collection through in one go = something I rarely choose to do with poetry. It felt like a fast read, perhaps propelled along by the shape of the poems and their irregular punctuation. I’ll definitely return to it to analyse and enjoy it further but even from that first read through some phrases have already stuck with me: ‘two ghosts disintegrating on the lens’, ‘thoughts that took over the day like weather’ and ‘I knew you, then I didn’t, then I stopped.’

17/09/2015 - 15:38


Sarah Johnson's picture

Sarah Johnson

Average: 4.5 (1 vote)

REVIEW by Natalie Charlesworth

An excellently ordered collection. From the entrancing opening poem ‘And the Soul’, through an exploration of the North and its people into the darkly intriguing poetic sequence ‘How I Abandoned My Body To His Keeping’ Moore displays a talent for language that is not afraid to toe the line with the darkness.

There are poems in this collection which simply sing. The titular poem ‘The Art of Falling’ being just one amongst many that really gripped me. This would have reached 5 stars save for the what I have come to think of as the ‘Brass’ poems. They didn’t seem to reach me as well as the others.

I liked the wolves that kept realising odd mournful howls here and there – often at the end of a poem, often unexpected. At first they seemed a little peculiar – like an image that should have been cropped out when the rest of its imagery disappeared in an earlier draft. Yet as the collection gathered pace they started to make sense, to be something that I searched for.

I read this collection through in one go = something I rarely choose to do with poetry. It felt like a fast read, perhaps propelled along by the shape of the poems and their irregular punctuation. I’ll definitely return to it to analyse and enjoy it further but even from that first read through some phrases have already stuck with me: ‘two ghosts disintegrating on the lens’, ‘thoughts that took over the day like weather’ and ‘I knew you, then I didn’t, then I stopped.’

17/09/2015 - 15:38
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