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Esther Morgan was born in Kidderminster, Worcestershire. She first started writing poetry while working as a volunteer at the Wordsworth Trust in Grasmere, Cumbria. After completing an MA in Creative Writing at the University of East Anglia in 2007, she taught on UEA's undergraduate creative writing course and for the Department of Continuing Education. After a teaching exchange to Edith Cowan University in Perth, Australia, Morgan returned to UEA where she edited four editions of the poetry anthology Reactions. She was awarded an Eric Gregory Award in 1998 and her first collection, Beyond Calling Distance, was published by Bloodaxe in 2001. It won the Aldeburgh First Collection Prize and was shortlisted for the John Llewellyn Rhys Prize. Her second collection, The Silence Living in Houses (Bloodaxe, 2005), was largely inspired by her time caretaking a run-down Edwardian house in Goring-on-Thames, Oxfordshire. In 2010 she won the Bridport Poetry Prize for her poem 'This Morning', included in her third collection Grace (Bloodaxe Books, 2011). As well as freelance teaching and editing work, Esther Morgan is currently Historic Recordings Manager for the Poetry Archive, the world's largest online collection of poets reading their own work: www.poetryarchive.org. After four years in Oxfordshire, she moved back to Norfolk.
Shortlisted for the T S Eliot Prize for Poetry 2011. What happens if, when the angel arrives with his message, no one's at home? In poems of lyric concentration, Grace examines our need for purpose, for the signs that might help us decide what to do with our lives. It's a desire that makes for restless spirits - like the woman who keeps shifting her furniture around or the invisible subjects of an early photograph, moving too fast to be captured. Other poems ask what happens when we reconcile ourselves to watching and waiting - whether the angle of the sun in a guest room or the colour of a bruised clementine is really 'enough to be going on with'. Haunted by a blue sky out of which something (or nothing) might come, these are poems of intensely felt moments. They create a vision both troubled and informed by doubt, where the ghost of a film star may be the closest we can come to grace.
The Wound Register, or Casualty Book - which gives this book its title - is an official record of the casualty and sickness details for more than fifteen thousand soldiers of the Norfolk Regiment during the First World War. Written during the conflict's centenary, the poems in Esther Morgan's fourth collection apply the concept to her own family history in the aftermath of her great grandfather's death at the Somme. An unflinching sequence written to her grandmother explores the trauma of losing a father in combat, while other poems address the missing soldier directly as he hovers on the brink of living memory. Morgan's experience of coming late to motherhood brings the book into the present, giving her alertness to loss a fresh urgency as she traces the legacy of three generations. Written with the lyrical precision of her earlier work but with a new intimacy, The Wound Register grapples movingly with the question of whether it's possible to live and love while doing no harm.
The Silence Living in Houses unlocks the doors to houses of secrets and dreams where ghosts of the past are more real than the living. In unsettling poems rich with intrigue, Esther Morgan traces the presence of those whose stories are fading like the wallpaper: the servant girl who smashed the dinner service and disappeared; the sisters whose macabre end is still spoken of in whispers; the mistress who breathes sweet nothings from behind the roses. At the heart of the book is the darkest of interiors where the threat and practice of violence forges a bond as unbreakable as the Mafia's code. But not all these houses are unsafe: the final poems summon up the haunted blood of family, revealing how what remains unspoken is as much concerned with love as it is with loss.
Esther Morgan's poems travel great distances across huge landscapes, both real and metaphorical: the big skies and endless horizons of the English Fens, the dust and rock of the Moon, the seas and deserts of dreams. Out of these distances, voices speak, or try to speak, wanting to bridge the gap, to connect, to be heard as well as to listen. Many of her characters are isolated people: the woman taken in adultery, a traveller lost in the Australian outback, a suicide waiting to be discovered, the survivors of war. Balancing doubt with faith in language, these figures in a landscape depict themselves and the strange worlds they inhabit in sensuous detail. Beyond calling distance, at the edge of the audible, Esther Morgan's delightfully elusive poems await their reader. Beyond Calling Distance, her first collection, won the Aldeburgh Festival First Collection Prize and was shortlisted for the John Llewellyn Rhys Memorial Prize.
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