Publication date: 19th May 2022
DCF: Poetry Collections
Cover artwork by Natty Peterkin
The Telling by Julia Webb is a distinctive and acutely-observed collection of poems that unravel the intricacies at the heart of human relationships – an insistent, quietly fierce tour de force from this Forward Prize commended poet. Moving and dark, we uncover the things that go unspoken between people despite their closeness.
In turning her forensic focus on what makes us human, and in particular what it is that glues us together or causes us to come apart, Julia Webb’s poetry examines the wreckage of complex lives to understand where the fault lines and fractures lie. What are the stories that construct our families and relationships, and who gets to tell them? Can we trust the stories we inherit, and what happens when we recover the right to tell things for ourselves? These compelling, taut poems crackle with the electricity of the untold – of flawed humans and hurt, of daring and being, of reclaiming and persisting.
Praise for The Telling by Julia Webb:
“Swarming with buzzing sadness, peopled loneliness, and technicolour hauntings." - Caroline Bird
“The Telling is a startling exploration of the self - self as picnic rug, as layer of concrete, as married to Scotland. Julia Webb explores shark and whale speak, envisages relationships with rogue planets, all the while seeking connection, love and resolution, in this most imaginative of collections.” - Katrina Naomi
“Julia Webb’s images writhe and fracture on the page, in her quest to portray a dysfunctional family. Yet, The Telling, does just that and more, probing what it is to be human and flawed. She reaches beyond the fracture lines, with a restless and playful vision, illuminating moments of reprieve and redemption, without betraying her truth. This is a brave and scrupulous collection, a mirror to our times and the familial sources of conflict.” – Pascale Petit
“The Telling is a book that defines the self in its relationship with others. It reminds us of how we change through our lifetime as we negotiate relationships with ageing parents, estranged siblings, ex-partners, or our own grown-up children. Julia Webb regards the family bluntly, but with a loving eye which accepts the complexities of people – how you can love them and be infuriated by them at the same time. Webb manages this via a playfulness with form and imagery, as she unexpectedly steps from the mundane to the supernatural with images that are strange but utterly convincing. There is longing in these poems and nostalgia, as well as many moving poems about grief after the loss of a mother. There is also recognition of how parents – in revealing their frailties as we grow up – become fallen gods, though loved fiercely, nevertheless. If the collection is telling us anything, it is to hold on to intimacies. So, in ‘Comet and Moon,’ two people saying goodbye suddenly remember their former delight in each other: “she reminded me that once I was a comet, / and I reminded her that she was once the moon”. The Telling is a moving testimony on family, a recording of a family’s infelicities and its joys: a telling that is truthful, honest, sincere.”
– Zoë Brigley
Julia Webb is a writer, artist, poetry tutor and editor based in Norwich. Her first two collections: Bird Sisters (2016) and Threat (2019) were also published by Nine Arches Press. Her work has been published widely in UK journals and anthologies.
In 2011 she won the Poetry Society’s Stanza competition and in 2018 she won the Battered Moons poetry competition. Her poem ‘Sisters’ was highly commended in the 2016 Forward Prize.
The poems in Threat train their eagle-eyes on life at the margins, and on family, love, loss, belonging and not belonging. They are not afraid to visit the uncomfortable places where true humanity resides. Narratives of both past and present tread a fine line between fantasy and reality, these are the lives we have led, the lives we could have led, or the lives we are leading still. Forensically detailed and disturbing, the dark and sometimes brutal undertow of small-town existence seeps to the surface of these unsettling poems.
The Nine Arches Press blog features poems from many of our poets, as well as interviews and articles.