REVIEWS of Knithoard
"These are not really poems about knitting, they are poems about life, and death, and learning, and the decisions we make as we progress from one to the other. Crowther explicitly includes and welcomes those who might not be familiar with knitting by placing her glossary of terms at the front of the collection instead of the back. ‘Please don’t think this book is not for you,’ it seems to say. I would give these poems to any number of my knitting friends, of course, but I would urge them on any other reader as well. This pamphlet is a wonderful accomplishment. Crowther has taken a topic that’s almost impossible to write about without sounding quaint or sentimental and made something astonishing."
www.dianemulholland.com, November 2019
"Crowther’s words are working. One of poetry’s roles is to restore and keep alive what we knew, not as nostalgia but as part of life’s fabric, something with its own pattern. Knitting is not just about wool; it holds potent memories, as do these poems."
D.A. Prince, Sphinx, 2019
"Claire Crowther takes a lyrical view of the knitter’s life in her new poetry collection, Knithoard. Claire’s carefully crafted poems explore themes such as tension woes, dropped stitches, working in the round, and discovering unwanted handknits in a charity shop."
The Knitter 112, October 2019
REVIEWS of Bare George
"The appeal of this pamphlet is the way it takes the most esoteric subject – Benedetto Pistrucci’s 1817 King George sovereign – and riffs on it so well. …
There’s no ignoring the political content, and you have to applaud an artist who sees a stint at a museum in Wales as an opportunity for a feminist treatment of religious and fiscal symbolism…
‘The Coin Maker Explains’ is a seriously sexy poem: ‘I gleam green yellow with yellow / smoke (my molten- / ness) […] I am swarf sharp’; but it’s also very witty, full of puns: ‘I’m taken / for an assay.’ This is reminiscent of Angela Carter’s work (which probably featured a dragon or two, as well) and makes good use of Crowther’s syllabics. Here we see how arbitrary formal features can produce surprising and intriguing effects precisely because they liberate the poet from intention. Even better when combined with some verbal ambiguity, as in ‘When I weigh two tons, graphite / dies at the end // sever.’
…there’s much to love about this pamphlet if you’re willing to meet the poet halfway, and much that is memorable for its eccentricity and skill."
Humphrey Astley, Sabotage Reviews, March 2017
"The authority of the poem’s voice and the beauty of its vowels create a different currency. Crowther’s writing has a riddling intensity...Reviewers can rarely generalise about the impact made by a poet’s words. But at readings I have seen audience members, whose own words are very different, throng to buy Crowther’s work, deeply impressed by her condensed, quick-witted poems."
Alison Brackenbury, PN Review, January/February 2017
"The verse form here is varied, incorporating lots of found copy and different text shapes on the page. You could get lost in its apparent sophistication and miss the jokes. In fact, it’s jam-packed with puns...Ho ho, the wordplay sizzles. This is a poet having fun."
Helena Nelson, Sphinx, 2017
"[Bare George is] certainly a lot better than most of the other crap out there."
Charlie Bayliss, Stride, June 2015
REVIEWS of On Narrowness
"Claire Crowther’s third full collection, On Narrowness, has a … willingness to abandon convention in its search for meaning in the quotidian. As with her previous books, she does this by embracing the entirety of human experience, writing about the intricacies of relationships as skilfully as she does about science and the natural world…
‘The Apology’ is wonderful, from its opening “Mosquitoes charged me with their sour sugar/ outside the vinegar house” to the concluding [lines]…
It’s never easy poetry, but it’s hugely rewarding, because Crowther’s curiosity about both words and the processes of living and dying compel you to consider familiar subjects in a fresh way…
… throughout the book there’s the awareness that nothing happens exactly as we expect it to, or ever proceeds in a straightforward fashion…
Crowther brings gentle humour into several poems, without ever letting it threaten to overpower the piece’s intellectual impetus, and she can be bracingly direct and personal, too, when she needs to be…
The final poem here, ‘Rockborne’, is another hymn to variousness and the need to keep moving on, to make what you can of what life throws your way, and its closing lines leave you wanting more of Crowther’s bravely individual poetry."
Matt Merritt, Magma 63, November 2015
"['The Alices'] is an intriguing and rewarding poem, clever and ludic by terms... All done with great humour and skill"
"'The two most engaging powers of an author: new things are made familiar, and familiar things are made new' [Samuel Johnson]. I think this poem manages both."
Peter Carpenter, The North, January 2016
"I love this clever poem ['The Alices']... 'Poetry communicates before it is understood', said T.S. Eliot, and this poem seems to deliberately confound our dogged insistence on meaning, our enslavement to the tyrannies of definition, as Carroll's original did... By putting on Carroll's mantle, the author of 'The Alices' in inscribing herself in this long line of English writers mimicking and parodying her predecessors as they did theirs, and above all, having fun with words. And 'The Alices' is funny! Lines like 'If the raths don't outgrabe' and 'I thought, they all do it, the toves' made me laugh out loud!"
Mary Noonan, The North, January 2016
"Crowther…has an eye for the life of objects, the outside perspective. 'Examine yourself, river' is how 'Snail' begins; 'my body thinks my voice is God', runs an aside in 'The Apology'; an earlier, untitled poem itemizes everything in a room from the 'Single bed' to the 'breeze sniping in' through an 'Uncontrollable curtain'. …Transparency is not all it's cracked up to be."
Michael Caines, Times Literary Supplement Poem of the Week,
online 19 May 2015
"Crowther [gives us] single words with multiple meanings, single words stripped out of existing contexts and given new ones and –rather brilliantly here – even uses the invented portmanteaux of the Jabberwocky to substitute ‘real’ words in a way that feels both natural and playful. Crowther excels at rewriting familiar words and ideas, using form and language as a kind of game…The collection sings with games of form and language but in a very naturalistic way...Many of the poems draw us in with the initial lure of narrative, only to transform the central image in startling ways, all done with a feel of organic effortlessness that can only be delivered with great skill."
Chrissy Williams, Poetry London, Autumn 2015
"This poetry reveals its beauty slowly through its accumulation of imagery and line and a wide attention to the world around it…Precision of language, depth of field and a tight hold on language distinguish these poems, but there is also an edge of innovation that sees her writing poems that sometimes bring you up short.…Throughout, I'm reminded both of Thom Gunn and Lee Harwood, and that's no mean feat in this lovely collection of lyrics. Crowther is one of the finest lyricists I've read in a while."
Steven Waling, Stride, 2015
"What I found myself thinking throughout the collection [was] I recognize her, I’ve been in that position, I know someone like him. She offers descriptions that are meaningful outside of their specific situations…Crowther’s meander through the physical meanings of narrowness as well as the mental meanings is enjoyable in its informal delivery and in its variation. "
Kate North, Poetry Wales, Autumn 2015
REVIEWS of Silents
"Claire Crowther uses poetry to explore the world of silent movies… Crowther uses syllabics to mirror the limitations of expressions without speech and the need for telling a story with few words – the intertitles – which must be sized and shaped by the ease with which they would be read from a screen…Like the “Silents”, the poems make the most of their restrictive forms and provide a concise homage to silent movies."
Emma Lee, London Grip, June 2015
"This elegantly designed book is a heartfelt, original account of one viewer’s headlong tilt into silent cinema. If you love silent film too, it will stir your passions anew. And delightfully, it is just as rich in mystery and multilayered meanings as the best of early cinema." Read full review
Silent London, June 2015
"Yes, film’s made of light. Silents is a very conceptually tight work, beautifully executed… [with a] delicate web of connections and imagery that Crowther has generated. For example, in the first poem, The Inflammatory Properties of Celluloid—for Oscar Micheaux, she works with ideas on the star/light/screen axis: movie stars, stars used in intertitles to blank out slurs, the star of the nitrate edge symbol; film projection, the darkness of night and the theatre, a digitized film, the screen of her mobile phone. That’s an astonishing density of imagery in just fourteen lines...Crowther is an incredibly concise writer; all of the poems have fewer than twenty lines. These are short sensory impressions rather than extended meditations, but they say everything that they need to. I won’t say that every single poem grabbed me, but quite a few of them did, and several stuck deeply in my mind."
Silents, Please! 9 October 2015
REVIEWS of Incense
"In Incense Crowther has found a verse form, the fatras, so appropriate to her subject - the social, medical, commercial and psychological dimensions of fat - that I had to look it up to make sure it wasn't a Borgesian invention. But no - it's a medieval form…Fat gain, fat loss, the tyranny of the changing room, the treachery of our body chemistry - all are given a memorable jolt by the form with its (slimmed) initial message, for example: 'fat is killer and duvet - soft cosh /flashing nucleoli in the dark'."
Alasdair Paterson, Stride, 2011
"My view is that the entire sequence is a minor revelation - an almost outrageously blessed ravelling of traditional form and contemporary subject... Like Marianne Moore, she is able to locate the poetry asleep in the language of science."
David Morley, Poetry Review, Autumn 2011
"This extraordinary meditation uses the fatrasie form, made popular as nonsense poems in medieval France, but Crowther’s treatment is far from nonsense, these poems shift from indictment to sympathy, exposing us to our bizarre modern horror of size and weight in poems that are exquisite, memorable and deeply poignant."
Chris Hamilton Emery, March 2011
REVIEWS of Mollicle
"At the lucid end of the spectrum, Claire Crowther's considerable reputation can only be enhanced by her two most recent works, [Mollicle and Incense]. Mollicle is full of relationships and encounters, described with a deceptive clarity and poise. Reflective in both senses, they open up unexpected vistas before and behind the reader, become suddenly opaque, slip from voice to voice, take unexpected turns. 'Self-portrait as windscreen' shows style and argument in fusion:
Do you think I'm clear on every issue
just because I'm glass?
Have you heard yourself calling 'Claire
Claire, Claire, Claire' when you're confused?
A name is lulling
when you aren't clear on every issue."
Alasdair Paterson, Stride, 2011
"...the collection of a poet whose work is fully achieved and anything but conventional - unless to leatn from Alice Oswald, Selima Hill, Gillian Allnutt is convention. Twenty one poems are enough to show Crowther's variousness, her delight in language..."
John Greening, Times Literary Supplement, 2011
"I once wrote of Claire Crowther that she can create pleasure with a single word. Mollicle is one such word. Mollicle is Crowther's own invention and means daughter; it seems to describe exactly the act of mothering, the intimacy and friction of the relationship. Crowther writes about female situations, experiences and especially relationships better than any other poet I can name."
Emily Hasler, Warwick Review, March 2011
"Characters are presented as individuals and we are invited to examine them not as a group, or as women, but as unique personalities, following different paths through a troubled thicket."
Kirsten Irving on Dr Fulminares Questionable Arts, Jan 2011
REVIEWS of The Clockwork Gift
"While her poems can be crystal-clear, more often they are riddling, veering, mysterious; deadly serious or quietly funny."
Richard Price, Times Literary Supplement, October 16, 2009
"The Clockwork Gift comes just two years after Stretch of Closures, Crowther's distinctive debut, and between them they add up not just to a promising first collection and a speedy follow-up, but a real and achieved body of work by a striking talent. The Clockwork Gift is a pleasure to read."
David Wheatley, New Welsh Review, Autumn 2009
"Crowther’s great skill is to evoke a definitely modern world while using a range of language and reference that stretches back into history... I feel I have barely begun to explain all The Clockwork Gift has to offer. Crowther’s craft is masterful, she is commendable for her inventiveness and humour. I cannot record here all the small delights it brings in single poems, single lines, and even single retrieved or newly-coined words. Having read this book you are entangled in it, lured back to its enigmatic world again and again."
Emily Hasler, Warwick Review, 2010
"Very few poets create their own unique world. Claire Crowther does, and it's all the more rich and strange for being made of language. She's one of the most original and imaginative poets now writing."
Matthew Francis, 2008
"Crowther writes with visual brilliance elsewhere of female ageing... ‘The Herebefore’ re-asserts a natural continuity which gains its strength from the poet’s questioning of her own artful procedures. By the time we reach the triumphant declaration at the end of the poem – “No skull but a new-coined queen” – elements of Heaney and his gendered bog poetry have started to show through, but they’ve been reclaimed and re-oriented."
Poetry Review, Summer 2009
"Claire Crowther weaves fragments of imagery together to create a picture which is strange, sinister, and haunting. .. If there is any justice in the world, this book will be on the shortlists for all the prizes this year, not just the usual suspects."
Rob Mackenzie, May 2009 See Rob online here
"The book's various careful, and often witty, approaches to age remind me of Agnès Varda...That's a radical move against our current cultural fear and exclusion of that which ages. She finds in age exactly the glow produced by late blooming, the fire of energies that have been banked and are flaring up. ... Crowther is and isn't the wolf in grandmother's clothing: hungry for language and its scenes, she essays an appetitive poetry that is inspiring in its openness, its generosity in giving time -- and its effects -- to the reader."
Sophie Mayer, Delirium’s Library, June 2009
REVIEWS of Stretch of Closures
"The best poems in the book work through their self-possessed oddity: quirky without being fey, not troubling to reassure the reader, they give the impression of an uncompromising intelligence at work...Crowther presents an attractively poised voice, calm but withholding, presenting a world that is uncannily fractured, but not entirely fragmented."
April Warman, Times Literary Supplement, May 23rd 2008
"Claire Crowther's poetry feels quiet and studied, with that curiously European sensibility, an understanding that poems can be deeply intimate, speaking as it were to one person only, yet broadly discursive and abstract at the same time. ...
This is endlessly-shifting language which surprises, tricks the eye and invites rereading… Cryptic, disconnected, in love with enjambment, these poems readily suggest more than their surface meaning…
Crowther’s poetic vision examines the paradoxical qualities of endurance: the patience and mutability of the feminine versus the seeming durability of stone with its susceptibility to erosion… This collection is quietly ambitious, not showy, but Claire Crowther is a poet whose confident, highly sensuous explorations of language and gender deserve to be read and recognized."
Jane Holland, Poetry Review, Summer 2007
"Reading this collection is like coming out into sunlight after spending too long indoors; the poems have the capacity to astonish. ..The language is peculiarly alive; the poems are set very much in this world, and they celebrate it….This is an ambitious and excellent first collection"
Cliff Yates, The North, 40, 2007
"…this Shearsman collection…I am excited to say, is stunning...This is a superb writer in whose poems nothing happened by chance. Each line is carefully paced; each word precise and measured. It’s a book to live with"
Helena Nelson, Magma, 38, 2007