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.
Born in London in 1984, John Challis is the author of the pamphlet, The Black Cab (Poetry Salzburg, 2017), a 2019 New Writing North Read Regional title, and is the recipient of a Pushcart Prize and a Northern Writers' Award. In 2015 he was a poet-in-residence with the Northern Poetry Library and chosen as one of the Poetry Trust's Aldeburgh Eight. His poems have been broadcast on BBC Radio 4, and published in journals including Magma, The North, Poetry London, The Rialto, Stand, and elsewhere. John also writes reviews and essays, most recently for Wild Court, PN Review, Poetry Salzburg Review and The Poetry School. He holds a PhD in Creative Writing from Newcastle University, where he currently works as a Research Associate. His first book-length collection, The Resurrectionists, is published by Bloodaxe in 2021. He lives in Whitley Bay.
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.'
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.