About Paul Farley

Paul Farley (b.1965) began winning awards with Poetry Review's Geoffrey Dearmer Prize, took the Forward Prize for Best First Collection with The Boy from the Chemist is Here to See You, and won the Whitbread Poetry Prize for his second, The Ice Age, which was also a Poetry Book Society Choice. He has been a teacher of creative writing, Poet in Residence at Dove Cottage, Wordsworth's home, and was chosen as a Next Generation Poet in 2004.

He has described poetry as "a long word which can be stretched". The sense of humour is easily seen in his work, and often evident in his wry introductions, as recorded here; the attention to the almost-physical sense of a word comes out in his strong use of rhyme and form. In addition to the powerful leavetaking of the everyday that builds in 'A Minute's Silence', the poem gains from being shaped in an elegiac metre familiar since Thomas Gray's classic, which Farley, rightly, draws attention to. It is possible that his formal interest is a kind of attention to materials, as he has also studied at the Chelsea School of Art, and – completing a satisfying circle – has been an art reviewer for Poetry Review.

His reading style skilfully allows these formal features to resonate, without distracting from the content, and does so in a voice that still acknowledges his native Liverpool. Parts of his home city – Speke Airport, bus termini, chip shops – figure in the poems, but mingle easily with Papal visits, dentistry and students suffering from scurvy. In 'Treacle', he takes a subject as grounded, as real, as a tin of treacle, and brings us through numinous details to both a sense of our place in history, and of stickiness. These are poems that try "to get around the back of these Big Safe Themes, to creep up on them", and the mundane nature of phone books and railway tunnels is a surprising and successful point from which to start that process.

His recording was made on 25 January 2001 at The Audio Workshop, London and was produced by Richard Carrington.

Paul Farley's Favourite Poetry Saying:

"Poetry is a long word which can be stretched" – Paul Farley

Poems by Paul Farley

Treacle - Paul Farley
A Minute’s Silence - Paul Farley
A Tunnel - Paul Farley
Paul Farley in the Poetry Store

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Featured in the Archive


1997 Geoffrey Dearmer Prize

Prize website

1998 Forward Prize for Best First Collection The Boy From The Chemist is Here to See You

Prize website

1999 Somerset Maugham Award The Boy from the Chemist is Here to See You

Prize website

1999 Sunday Times Young Writer of the Year Award

Prize website

2002 Whitbread Poetry Award The Ice Age

Prize website

2005 Forward Poetry Prize for Best Single Poem: 'Liverpool Disappears for a Billionth of a Second'

Prize website