I want to spell out all / the harboured messages of joy, make an alphabet / of our hands and bodies, rewrite our movements, / make everything strange.Deryn Rees-Jones 'Spells'
About Deryn Rees-Jones
Deryn Rees-Jones was named as one of the Next Generation Poets following her spirited debut The Memory Tray, which was also shortlisted for a 1994 Forward Prize. This collection recaptures the dream-state of childhood, exploring issues of gender, identity and loss as it “dives headlong into love and faithlessness, memory and desire with enjoyable abandon”, applauded William Scammell in the Independent on Sunday.
Born in Liverpool in 1968, Rees-Jones spent time back and forth between Liverpool and a family home in Eglwysbach in North Wales. After reading English at the University of Wales, Bangor, she did doctoral research on women poets at Birkbeck College, University of London. Bloodaxe published the highly-praised fruit of this pioneering research Consorting with Angels, along with the anthology Modern Women Poets (2005). Both books bring to light the virtuosity of two centuries of British and American women’s poetry.
Rees-Jones’ vibrant second collection Signs Round a Dead Body (1998) was a Poetry Book Society Special Commendation. In a review, Anthony Wilson wrote: “Most admirable about her work is that she goes for it in nearly every poem, truthfully and unashamedly singing. One of her titles, ‘What It’s Like To Be Alive,’ could summarize her whole project.”
Quiver (2004) is a book-length poem. The narrator is a writer who discovers the dead body of her husband’s ex-lover and sets out to solve the mystery of her murder; in doing so she clears her own writer’s block. Quiverexplores the nature of authorship and creativity as storylines weave in and out of one another both to reveal and obscure. The title poem is a playful retelling of Ovid’s story of Artemis and Actaeon. In Rees-Jones’ version, Actaeon’s dogs are feminist icons, and Artemis wants to return the male gaze – to ‘look at the man without fear or shame.’
A short residency at the Natural History Museum led to Falls & Finds (2008), a lyrical examination of the ‘small things’ of the natural world, and her place within it. Here, Rees-Jones addresses the profundity of being, in a poem entitled ‘Daughter ll’: “Blake’s angel, what makes you?/ blood, bone, mineral, the black space/ that creates the universe, would//if it could, suck everything in?’
There is a beauty in the measure of Deryn Rees-Jones’ voice as she reads on this Archive recording that allows the listener to be completely immersed in her poems. This creates an intimate space, where it feels as if she were telling you a gorgeous secret.
This recording was made at the Audio Workshop, London on September 18th 2008 and was produced by Richard Carrington.