Shearsman Books, 2021

“Linda Black’s sparkling poems charm and beguile – and then, quite often, twist a small knife. Under a rubric of ‘little involuntary musings’, she makes a miscellany of different forms: prose poems, grid poems, extended aphorisms with a sting in the tail, fantastical flash-fiction. They toy with nostalgia, trailing threads of real memories into imaginary word-gardens bristling with tricks. Words ‘collude / allude’, slip over each other, with many near-misses. They lean into one another, threaten connection, narrowly miss and ricochet in another direction. Allusions are so nearly (neatly-delightfully) pinned down, are always on the verge of escaping. Daintiness jostles disgust as the poems joke, jibe, curse, cast spells – about food, fripperies, old china, seemingly new-to-you trifles that really aren’t trifling at all. Then tugs and teases – at possible pasts, possible consequences, half-glimpsed narratives – all assembled into glittering bricolage.” – Anna Reckin

Selected poems from Then


Shearsman Books, 2016

“Step into the magical word-world of Linda Black. Singsong and urbane by turn, these poems are rich in Hardyesque rhythms and moods undercut by an astute and often funny commentary. Using techniques more usually found in nonsense poetry, pastoral and ballad, this collection devises ‘a route map of liquid thought’. Linda Black leads the very few British poets who present the process of consciousness and she does it in a wholly original way.” – Claire Crowther

“Woolf’s jottings are assembled skilfully by Linda Black in her poem ‘At the Little Deal Table under the Glare of the Lamp’. A slightly dizzy and trembly ars poetica emerges: ‘Here’s my interesting thing, and no quiet/ solid table on which to put it’. This might have been written purposely to express the dilemma of the 21st century poet, the problem that all poets are required individually to solve. Linda Black …. is one of the inventive table-makers. She uses her source material with immense skill, both in the Woolf variations quoted, and in the John Ruskin homage, ‘Seven Lamps’. This work is a kind of translation, and Black finds enrichment for her own rhythms and vocabulary by re-grouping and personalising borrowings from the original texts. Of the architectural details observed in the second Ruskin stanza, the speaker observes that they ‘have grace/ about them, a sensation in every inch’ – which is a good description of Black’s own ekphrastic skills.” – Carol Rumens

The Son of a Shoemaker

Hearing Eye, 2012

“Working in what is comparatively still an experimental form – the prose poem – Linda Black in The Son of a Shoemaker extends its range by pushing the boundaries of language, structure and metaphor. Make no mistake: this is poetry of the highest order. Black is without doubt one of Britain’s foremost experimental writers. These enchanting/enchanted short pieces, based on collaging or ‘treating’ the text of a fictionalised biography of Hans Christian Andersen, slip in and out of conscious understanding without compromising that essential kernel of awareness and apperception which characterises the best poetry. The language is a constant delight, revealing the idiosyncratic workings of a highly original sensibility. I love the combination of the domestic and fantastic and the often comic juxtapositions of wildly diverse material. Black’s illustrations, a fascinating mix of faux-Victorian and Searle-like phantasmagoria, are an intuitively right complement to the texts, echoing their fairy-tale, Wonderland ambience. This is a book of sustained, understated exuberance.” – Robert Vas Dias

Selected poems from The Son of a Shoemaker


Shearsman Books, 2011

This is a collection in search of origins, a kind of ‘delving’, ‘trying to get to the bottom of it.’ In a series of unsettling prose poems Black offers pieces of a fractured past. The effect is memorable and often menacing, each poem glinting like a sliver from a broken mirror; language enacting the struggle to retrieve and reassemble an unauthorised past. The difficulties of truth-finding and -telling are explored through shifts in identity and a syntax of qualifications and hesitations where everyday phrases take on a new and frightening resonance. Domestic objects and rituals loom large in the distorted reflections of the poems, conveying a sense of wonderland gone wrong.

“In a wonderful poem towards the end of the collection, Black’s protagonist stands up to read her poems in front of an audience but finds the paper on which they are written has been shredded. So she offers fragments instead, “drawing out as if from a magician’s bag those symbols that confound her, crafted, adorned, embellished…” I can’t think of a better description of how this startling collection unfolds – Black is indeed a magician of words, presenting her dark materials with a kind of unflinching showmanship which is both exhilarating and moving.” – Esther Morgan

Selected poems from Root


Shearsman Books, 2008

Inventory has no fixed narrative. It is as fragmented and arbitrary as memory. An inventory is an attempt to impose order, to contain, to control. The poems in Inventory illustrate obsession, ritual, self-interrogation; a mind enacting trauma. Through adherence to detail, the literal truth of appearance, an attempt is made to confront reality as though it can be momentarily pinned down. This is a confused reality—however ‘accurate’, the description itself doesn’t—and can’t—explain what happened in the past. Nothing is explicit. Proof does not exist. Order confounds, laying down clues that deny answers.

“This is indeed a ‘collection’, a box full of treasures and terrors: etchings and flypaper, instructions for softening nails, a jar of ginger with a mother locked inside. The world Linda Black creates as she interrogates the random objects and scraps of memory that make up a life is extraordinary. Here are interiors rich in meticulous detail and psychological drama, fraught with a lost significance that haunts and disturbs. This is one of the most distinctive voices I’ve read in a long time—witty, fierce and sophisticated, Inventory is a fabulous—in both senses of the word—collection.” – Esther Morgan

The beating of wings

Hearing Eye, 2006

“. . . our Pamphlet Choice for the most consistently exciting poetry we read is Linda Black's the beating of wings. Black's work moves with a thrilling speed, at times reminiscent of Denise Levertov, poems unrolling swiftly down the page often in characteristic short-lined couplets. There is a breathless excitement for the reader, unable to predict where each poem will turn next. Those that open in familiar territory - a playground, a lampshade, a phone-call, a sitting room floor -often travel remarkable distances by the time they draw to a close.

“This fluidity of form is frequently matched with the sinuous movement of thought or - more accurately - the consciousness that seems to inhabit these poems as they twist and turn through a continuous present tense. 'For Roy' is one of the more conventional poems as it evokes a friendship, but even this sweeps from a picture Black has created for him (she is an artist as well as poet), a photograph, a conversation, a dream of him, until the fact of his death is only revealed at the last.

“The final part of 'Art Work' suggests important aspects of Linda Black's poetic technique. 'The first mark she makes / is not in an obvious place ... / . . . She lets it be'. From here, the artist pursues connections towards more recognisably human things, 'a face, a torso, the arm of a chair, a lamp maybe'. Of the couple of dozen poems here, easily half are enviably achieved, powerful pieces that few of Black's contemporaries could match. Hearing Eye have published a really significant debut.”

– Poetry Book Society

Selected poems from The beating of wings