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Variety Turns by Christopher Arksey

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Variety Turns is a collection of elegies for Christopher Arksey's mum who passed away from cancer in 2016. Arksey pays tribute to his mum by recalling not just the solemn moments, but the dark humour we often lean on when trying to cope with loss. These poems exemplify the permanence of grief, while bringing to light the unknowable and unfulfilled parts of the lives of those we've lost. Written with subtle precision, Variety Turns is both a tender tribute and a quiet but affecting exploration of loss and how we grieve. 

PRAISE for Variety Turns:

In their measured, quiet, honest way, these small poems carry a great weight of grief. Their craft lies in knowing how much can be stated obliquely, with a light touch and the unexpected phrase, wittily, pleasurably. They pay tribute to the brave spirit of the dying with a bravery of their own, and together they constitute a monument that can be visited again and again, each time with undiminished freshness.

  — Christopher Reid 

In one of the powerful elegies of Variety Turns, Christopher Arksey finds random traces of his mother while time-travelling on Google Earth. Poring over them with rapt attention, he nevertheless knows ‘not one of these /made a difference’. On the level of deep and sympathetic understanding, these are poems that very much do make a difference. A bedroom with a view of a cemetery, an insistent departed presence ‘diminishing in full view’, ‘the most convincing /rendition of dying /I’ve ever seen’ – no detail of Arksey’s work is without its Hardyesque and robustly bittersweet melancholy. Out of wrenching loss he has made durable art, and poems that leave the reader both ‘spent and roused’.

  — David Wheatley

Christopher Arksey’s Variety Turns allows unflashy, thoughtful elegies for his mother to make their point both quietly and effectively. There is a real sense of loss being worked through seriously and with dignity, which is sustained by careful choices of word and phrase. In ‘Nil’, Arksey catches mourners paying their respects: ‘Some were all prayers. / While others warmed their chairs // in sniffled vigil and waited / for the next to take their places’; ‘My singular loss / humbled by multiple thefts, / as each arrived and more left.’ ‘Last Words’ builds a powerful sequence from laconic fragments: ‘Every morning and night / the cemetery peeked over its height // of brick wall to check in on you’. In ‘Actor’, he catches the way we often fail to comprehend the reality of death, or shy away from its finality, conditioned as we are by fictional portrayals: ‘The most convincing / rendition of dying / I’ve ever seen.’

Variety Turns is an impressive debut: a thirty-odd page sequence without flab or bluster. Arksey is not afraid to be serious, but is aware that craft is the best proof of sincerity. The poems are constructed with both care and feeling that never rings hollow, though the verse avoids the pitfalls of calling attention to itself and the skill with which it has been so artfully assembled.

  — Cliff Forshaw

The poems in Variety Turns are controlled, expressive and affecting. Arksey can be playful and clever but his project is a serious one, and these poems are deeply felt and finely made.

  — Hilary Menos

ABOUT Christopher Arksey:

Christopher Arksey is a writer and voice actor. His poems have appeared in Anthropocene, Full House Literary, Moist Poetry Journal, Porridge, Sledgehammer Lit, The York Journal, and the Broken Sleep Books anthology Companions of His Thoughts More Green: Poems for Andrew Marvell. He lives in Hull with his wife and two sons.

Broken Sleep Books



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