[09/07/2021] The Resurrectionists by John Challis

[09/07/2021] The Resurrectionists by John Challis

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Bloodaxe Books, paperback

Publication: September 7, 2021

Publisher Marketing: The living and the dead are working side by side in John Challis’s dramatic debut collection, The Resurrectionists. Whether in London’s veg and meat markets, far below the Dartford Crossing, or on the edge of the Western world, these poems journey into a buried and sometimes violent landscape to locate the traces of ourselves that remain. Amidst the political disquiet rising from the groundwater, or the unearthing of the class divide at the gravesides of plague victims, the veil between the living and the dead is at its thinnest when a child is born, and something close to hope for the future is resurrected.

'In his debut collection, The Resurrectionists, John Challis reminds us how both personal and collective histories remain a part of our present.... this is poetry as archaeology, though with a lyric alchemy that can conjure “a heap / of gangrenous bodies” at a plague-pit excavation in modern London. Challis commemorates the lives of working London people – butchers in Smithfield market, a cabbie father, “barrow boys and cockle pickers” – in poems that reflect on class politics while generally avoiding nostalgia.... The Resurrectionists is alive to both the individual moment and the long perspective.' - Ben Wilkinson, The Guardian, best recent poetry

'John Challis’ first full length collection The Resurrectionists occupies the liminal space between the living and the dead. The industrial past and its violent landscapes are not finished with  us, but instead spring forth into the present moment where “time alone can be itself, bait and cast a line”.  The  Resurrectionists explores how the past comes closest when the future is at  hand: “the dead leaned in... as though to kiss our baby’s head.” - Poetry Book Society Bulletin, Summer 2021

‘In John Challis’s superb first collection, the past has not finished with us. It pursues and provokes and questions what we’re about. Entire vanished or vanishing worlds of work – on the East End docks, at Smithfield, in the pre-Murdoch print, at the wheel of a black cab – reveal vivid traffic between the living and the dead. In rich, urgent combinations of the dramatic and the lyric, Challis adds new energy to the poetry of history, in the tradition of Harrison, Smith, Dunn and Wainwright. In its embrace of both the political and the metaphysical, and in its tender regard for ordinary life the book is both timely and necessary.’ – Sean O’Brien

‘These poems throw a great arc of light out of the city’s storeyed past into the present, place, trades, family, vulnerable fatherhood. Here, balanced at the very edge, where “light will fall out of our language”, John Challis shines his words into the workings of the heart and of nature, with all their unpredictable transformations.’ – Imtiaz Dharker