AN IRISH TIMES BOOK OF THE YEAR
SHORTLISTED FOR THE FORWARD PRIZE FOR BEST COLLECTION
'Impressive . . . tender, unflinching' Guardian
'This is poetry in the grand tradition of annihiliation by desire. It's what the young are always learning, and the old, if they are wise, never forget' Anne Boyer, author of The Undying
'Brilliant . . . heralds the arrival of a frank and vital poetic voice' Sharlene Teo, author of Ponti
'Frank and alert . . . an important voice in British poetry' Eley Williams, author of The Liar's Dictionary
'Direct and heart-breaking' Alex Dimitrov, author of Love and Other Poems
'A rare thing . . . razor-sharp' Julia Copus, author of This Rare Spirit: A Life of Charlotte Mew
In Rotten Days in Late Summer, Ralf Webb turns poetry to an examination of the textures of class, youth, adulthood and death in the working communities of the West Country, from mobile home parks, boyish factory workers and saleswomen kept on the road for days at a time, to the yearnings of young love and the complexities of masculinity.
Alongside individual poems, three sequences predominate: a series of 'Love Stories', charting a course through the dreams, lies and salt-baked limbs of multiple relationships; 'Diagnostics', which tells the story of the death from cancer of the poet's father; and 'Treetops', a virtuosic long poem weaving together grief and mental health struggles in an attempt to come to terms with the overwhelming data of a life.
The world of these poems is close, dangerous, lustrous and difficult: a world in which whole existences are lived in the spin of almost-inescapable fates. In searching for the light within it, this prodigious debut collection announces the arrival of a major new voice in British poetry.
It's a rare thing to come across a debut collection as cohesive and accomplished as Rotten Days in Late Summer. Whether writing on love, class, illness, the working life, death or the complex and multi-faceted nature of human desire, Ralf Webb is never less than razor-sharp. With a storyteller's flair, he evokes a world of shifting terrains in which 'anything could be an omen', and where refrains, motifs, stanza shapes and rhymes call to each other across the pages. In his extraordinary 'Treetops' sequence, Webb navigates the labyrinths of mental illness and the ambiguous prize of health . . . It all feels gloriously, anarchically new
This is close-range language, magnifying without prejudice both the beautiful and the hard. Ralf Webb's poetry tells the truth of the push-pull of liberation and obligation . . . To work, to care, to mourn, but also to be a poet and queer and . . . dream of a commune in France - this is poetry in the grand tradition of annihilation by desire. It's what the young are always learning, and the old, if they are wise, never forget
His poems take on grief and young manhood, and are largely set in England's West Country. 'Accept this cheap and ironclad cynicism,' Webb writes. 'We're not famous. I am completely in love.' The voice in this book is direct and heart-breaking. There's no pretension. It's all heart
Webb's collection concerns captivation and captivity, its dignities and its violences, with frank and alert complexity. Be it in remembered school corridors, the careening horizons of grief or longed-for resolutions within and without desire, he presents the strange within the recognisable and the recognisable within the strange. A careful-bold, important voice in British poetry
Ralf Webb is an ethnographer of the present. He is interested in everyday life in the extreme. What we find is that "There is a goodness here, somewhere, there is sense in struggle." Equal parts ode, litany, and menace, Rotten Days in Late Summer opens us up to the agon of the new century
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