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The Departure [Hardcover]

Chris Emery
4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (9 customer reviews)
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Book Description

15 Mar 2012
Shortlisted for the EDP-Jarrold East Anglian Book Awards

At the centre of Emery’s third collection are a series of narrative poems that reveal an astonishing range of personas, from the set of Mission Impossible, an extra from Gojira, porn stars, bombers and executioners — even Charles Bukowski turns up to take a leak. There are Pennine journeys, war zones, the Norfolk coast, the Suffolk coast, riots, bad hotel rooms and crazy conventions. Even the secret life of peas. Interspersed among all these are poems concerning the mysterious ‘M’.

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Product details

  • Hardcover: 80 pages
  • Publisher: Salt Publishing; 1st edition (15 Mar 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1907773150
  • ISBN-13: 978-1907773150
  • Product Dimensions: 13.7 x 20.5 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (9 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 1,563,490 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
  • See Complete Table of Contents

More About the Author

Chris Emery lives in Cromer with his wife and children. He works in publishing. His has written two previous collections of poetry, a writer's guide and edited editions of Emily Brontë, John Keats and Christina Rossetti. His work has been widely published in magazines and anthologised, most recently in Identity Parade: New British and Irish Poets (Bloodaxe, 2010). He is a contributor to The Cambridge Companion to Creative Writing (Cambridge University Press, 2012), edited by David Morley and Philip Neilsen. His latest collection of poetry is The Departure (Salt, 2012).

Chris Hamilton-Emery grew up in Manchester and went to a convent-run primary school in New Moston before attending grammar school in Prestwich. It was following this that he began to study sculpture, painting and printmaking. He continued at Manchester College of Art and Design before taking a degree at Leeds Polytechnic, graduating in 1986. He subsequently destroyed all his art work, and began to focus upon his writing.

After a brief attempt to train as an art teacher, he began work in a variety of jobs: insurance clerk, an administrator in a haematology department, a data manager in an oncology department, an information designer in public transport, and design manager at the British Council, before embarking on a publishing career -- ending up as a director at Cambridge University Press. He left to concentrate on writing and literary publishing in 2002.

Writing as Chris Emery, his poetry began appearing in journals throughout the 1990s including The Age, Jacket, Magma, Poetry London, Poetry Review, Poetry Wales, PN Review, Quid and The Rialto. He was anthologised in New Writing 8 in 1999. A pamphlet, The Cutting Room, was published by Barque in 2000. A first full-length poetry collection, Dr. Mephisto, was published by Arc in 2002, a second collection of poetry, Radio Nostalgia, was published by Arc in 2006. He has travelled to perform his work in the USA and Australia.

Emery's poetry is characterised by a dystopian vision of the world, the use of varied personae, an exuberant vocabulary, black humour and dramatic changes in register and tone. His work can shift between mainstream poetics and wild experimentation, often combining both within a single volume. His central themes appear to be the incongruousness of moral experience within modern society, the collapse or eradication of identity, and non-spiritual or secular redemption. However, in The Departure we see a significant extension of range in poems which are more directly emotional, accessible and often humorous.

He is also the author of a writers' guide on publishing and marketing poetry, 101 Ways to Make Poems Sell.

He is Publishing Director of Salt Publishing an independent literary press now based in Cromer, England. He was awarded an American Book Award in 2006 for his services to American literature. Hamilton-Emery has sat on the Boards of the Independent Publishers Guild and Planet Poetry, and occasionally works as a consultant in the publishing industry in the United Kingdom. He lives in Cromer with his wife and three children.

Product Description


The narrative poems are like snapshots of longer stories, like watching ten minutes of a film – you want to know more. The ‘location poems’ feature such vivid imagery, so real that you’re right there – “a charcoal pushbike leaning on the door’s black velour”. Emery shows no sticking rigidly to poetic form, taking the theme of departures around a tour of haiku, sonnets, couplets, free verse. It’s all here. The words are working hard – “the day moon is a wok”, “the sea’s womb bursts” – painting a vivid picture in your mind’s eye. The breadth of this collection is tremendous, but my absolute favourite is the title poem ‘The Departure’, about leaving yourself and diving into your art. (Michelle Teasdale Winning Words)

These words matter: these contexts, these agonised, pained, joyous, hilarious worlds. (Catherine Edmunds Goodreads)

There are moments of great lucidity and philosophical insight in Emery’s poetry, and a vocabulary born from experience that doesn’t cry pretentious. There is grit, but not for its own sake, and a clean intelligence lies beneath “the dirt the dirt the dirt” of The Bukowskis that makes way for the brave political admonitions (‘The Destroyers Convention’ and ‘Guest Starring’). It is also nice to see a dialogue poem in the form of ‘Carl’s Job’; these are rare and, to me, pave a way forward in poetry. Emery’s excellent execution of this form delivers a haunting exchange of movie-talk, and shows the range of his literary prowess:“‘I’ve no further plans on killing’ I said. ‘Those days are done.’ / ‘Let me tell you, Bud,’ said Carl. ‘Those days are sitting here now.’” (Philippe Blenkiron Ink, Sweat & Tears)

Chris Emery’s ‘Departures’ has affinities with those of John Hartley-Williams. A single poem can pile up seemingly unrelated images with an impact derived not from an understanding of the poem’s logical surface connections, what the seventeenth century described as wit, but from the connections that Emery’s images make with our emotions. A lazy reaction would be to lump him with the more overt surrealist procedures of Hartley—Williams, but I would prefer to describe his imagery sensually associative akin to the work of Elytis or Pablo Neruda. (James Sutherland-Smith The Bow-Wow Shop)

A collection where linguistic invention and imagination combine in poems with a dazzling range of feeling never less than a true entertainment. (James Sutherland-Smith The Bow-Wow Shop)

Studded with richly strange images and ideas, the poems, like the church bells which ‘invert the town', in ‘Sunday Fathers', are often skewed and unsettling: hat stands, ‘wrists of ice'; snails, ‘death's pale eccentrics'. (Ellen Cranitch Poetry London)

Most of Emery’s poems share an immediacy, a measured brashness, but there is nothing especially uniform about this collection: there is a ‘cowboy song’, a poem dedicated to a Victorian hangman, a visit to the frontline of a warzone, each poem shining a different kind of light on a different world of hope, or pain, or calm, or irony, or fortitude, or beauty. (Rory Waterman The Times Literary Supplement)

Chris Emery drops you right into his poems/world, and once in you have very little chance to orientate yourself before being assaulted by the next image or poem; voices and fragments of lives hurtle past you leaving behind ghosts on the retina, neurons fired and blipping beyond the moment. (The Parrish Lantern)

The poems made me feel and put images in my head, but I never understood why I felt that way, or how these quicksilver pictures fitted into the narratives. There is something about the quality of the images ('Snails’ silently drowned in "forest tears" and awkward ‘Sunday Fathers’ "wasting time by the swings") and of the atmospheres conjured up (for me the book as a whole has a feeling of carparks and gritty sodium lights, isn't that odd!) that tells me I should trust Chris Emery and that there are more treasures to be found. (Clare Law’s Blog)


In his aptly-named new collection, Chris Emery shows he still has the talent to surprise us with a perfectly-managed change of direction and range, showing (in the words of one of his poems) a new "fantastic ordinary face". A fresh accessibility is achieved with a richness of striking and imaginative language that will impress his existing readership, and reward the new one this book is certain to attract. There is plenty of humour here alongside genuine political commitment, a lot of real human feeling between its sharp satirical edges, kissing as well as broken teeth. Anybody interested in the contemporary poetry of these islands will have to read this book. (Ian Duhig)

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Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars the Departure 2 April 2012
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
I won't bore you with too much of what I think about this book. Far better judges have accurately commented on the wonderful poems in Chris Emery's third collection (see front and back cover for reviews by Ian Duhig, George Szirtes and David Morley). What this book is, is a pleasure to read, with Emery using, as Duhig says, an imaginative and often striking language. It is an excellent example of contemporary poetry being published by Salt in a beautifully printed hardback edition and quality dust jacket. Buy this book; and if you are not familiar with Salt publishing then prepare to become addicted.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars 20/20+ visionary of white stone days 5 Aug 2012
To my mind, the test of a good poetry collection is the number of 'like's' in it, since in the pantheon of rhetoric the unburdened metaphor, surely, stands several ranks higher than the schizoid simile whose shadow-self lurks in attendance. ('...painted like teeth' versus '...the swashes of power lines.') So I'm pleased to report that, in 'The Departure', I counted fewer than twenty 'like's', which bodes well for lovers of metaphor.

It follows, then, that this significant absence only increases the distinction of this collection, with verses characterised by an eloquence and concision of phrase and metre that Dowson or Symons might have envied. ('We wash in a caul of candlelight as stars upend this earth.') Any passionate reader of poetry will enjoy the subtle resonances (sometimes ironic) hinting at lesser and greater masters of English verse traceable in these pages. Just as Larkin knocks spots off Betjeman as our most sensitive distiller of the essence of Englishness so, here, Emery cleaves to rawest candour in restoring the spots, blemishes, stains and all. ('...carburettors, broken baths and bogs, or leaking / pigeon houses, mossy, skeletal. The bricked-up space yawns / past with its noose of hawking kids, each red estate leaching / out their dreams with piles of squat architecture, canals and dogs.' And: '... spittoon-shaped atrium in Gatley.' ) 'Leaching' cannot be improved.

Here I can only hint at the acuity of Emery's 20/20+ vision, yet I will single out one poem for special mention, which is worth the entrance fee: 'The Publisher's Desk' allusive evocation of Eliot's quotidian preoccupations, with a seemingly random mundanity accorded significances from the storehouse of an over-freighted mind.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Departure 27 April 2012
I first read this book a week ago on the East Coast Mainline from Darlington to London Kings Cross (`Look left, a cobbled lane and a crypt of hats'). I read it again from St Pancras to Paris Gare du Nord (`above the summer marriage of grasses'), and again from Paris Montparnasse to Niort (`All the forks, the platters, the cruet set: everything is dancing.'). I waited several days, and read it again, three times on the return journey; the last time, back to front so that I ended with `Snails'. Those snails! (`Why are they all called Tony or Erasmus or King Nacre?') I love this poem. It opens the book and encapsulates all that for me is so wonderful about Chris Emery's poetry: the wit, the connections, the sheer joy in words and what they can do, the shock of unexpected juxtapositions, the extraordinary insight into the ordinary, the leap beyond the mundane into the terrifying, the ineffable logic - and Droylsden. Okay, Droylsden's not actually mentioned in the snail poem, but does appear elsewhere, more than once.

For those nervous of the dreaded D word, I should mention the somewhat more genteel Southwold is there too, so you can relax. Temporarily. Where else? Bromley, of course (my husband has this theory that you'll read/see mention of Bromley at least once a week. I've no idea why this should be, but remember Janice from Bromley in that ad on the telly not so long ago?) plus Burnley, various Manchester locations, the Wale Obelisk, Celaenae (an ancient city of Phrygia - yes I had to look it up), Cromer, Cambridge and across the pond to the States for a quick tour, then back again to the penultimate poem: a glorious concoction of observations made in a nameless motel that had me spluttering with laughter at its grossness.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars the DEPARTURE 9 April 2012
By dwalsh
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
"Moving in and out of imagined landscape, portrait and documentary, anecdote and legend Ondaatje writes for the eye and ear simultaneously," wrote Diane Wakoski of Michael Ondaatje's poems and I felt as though I had encountered a similar journey when reading the DEPARTURE by Chris Emery. The experience is rich and gainful. The language allows no immediate stasis returning the reader to the core of the work again and again. Some poems felt restrained by the juxtaposition of words, which detracted from the impact of the work. Most often the work is a triumph in making.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Chris Emery drops you right into his poems/world 11 Jan 2013
I'm going to steal a quote by another fabulous poet, as my link into this book. George Szirtes, states on the back cover that the poems in this collection:

" are like highly compressed short stories that we enter at high speed. Once in, the place is full of vivid detail keeping our head turning."

I've taken this to mean that Chris Emery drops you right into his poems/world, and once in you have very little chance to orientate yourself before being assaulted by the next image or poem; voices and fragments of lives hurtle past you leaving behind ghosts on the retina, neurons fired and blipping beyond the moment. Again taking Szirtes idea of "compressed stories" I recently wrote a post on a microfiction collection, and stated that I wasn't sure where the difference between prose poetry and microfiction lie and that "like prose poetry, microfiction appears to be loose, possibly random paragraphs and to use everyday language, although it is heightened, making every word placed - placed with a specific purpose - as if it were a puzzle & could have only been placed there, would only fit there." , this description seems to fit Chris's poetry and even though he's far to adventurous to remain in one form when he could be exploring Sonnets, Couplets, Haiku's or free verse, I think the description an apt one.

On leaving Wale Obelisk (for Jen).

Did we shuck our suits that leaf-dense noon?
Leave serious careers in lemon light,
the high clouds, early swallows, the day moon
weakened, nothing farmed, nothing tight

above the summer marriage of grasses,
and all that luscious time receding in
the corporate years' climbing excesses,
just a vacancy before the children?

We made a kind of love pledge there.
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